Despite efficient intrathymic negative selection of host-reactive T cells, autoimmune disease may develop in porcine thymus-grafted athymic mice: evidence for failure of regulatory mechanisms suppressing autoimmunity.Transplantation 2003; 75(11):1832-40T
CD4 T-cell reconstitution and xenogeneic tolerance is achieved in T cell-depleted, thymectomized C57BL/6 (B6) mice and nude mice by grafting of fetal pig thymus (FP THY). Sixty percent of grafted nude mice and 10% of grafted thymectomized B6 mice develop a clinical illness resembling chronic graft-versus-host disease.
Negative selection of mouse T cells in FP THY grafts was studied in "AND" TCR transgenic mice with a negative selecting MHC. Pathologic and immunohistochemical examinations and adoptive transfer assays were performed to determine the role of mouse CD4+ cells in the occurrence of autoimmune disease in this model.
Marked clonal deletion of mouse thymocytes bearing a transgenic TCR ("AND"), which recognizes H2s expressed by host hematopoietic cells, was observed in FP THY grafts. Pathologic and immunohistochemical examinations of the liver, skin, lungs, and kidneys of mice with wasting syndrome showed marked mouse CD4+ T-cell infiltration without detectable pig cells. After adoptive transfer of splenocytes, but not of CD4+ cell-depleted splenocytes, from sick mice along with B6 bone marrow cells to lethally irradiated syngeneic B6 mice, the secondary recipients developed a similar autoimmune syndrome as the donors. Cotransfer of naïve syngeneic splenocytes prevented the occurrence of autoimmune disease in secondary recipients of splenocytes from healthy FP THY-grafted BALB/c nude mice.
These results demonstrate a key role for mouse CD4+ T cells in causing autoimmune disease in this model and suggest the importance of regulatory mechanisms in addition to intrathymic clonal deletion for the maintenance of tolerance to recipient antigens.