Allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation is a viable treatment for multiple hematologic diseases, but its application is often limited by graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), where donor T cells attack host tissues in the skin, liver, and gastrointestinal tract. Here, we examined the role of the cellular energy sensor AMP kinase (AMPK) in alloreactive T cells during GVHD development. Early posttransplant, AMPK activity increased more than 15-fold in allogeneic T cells, and transplantation of T cells deficient in both AMPKα1 and AMPKα2 decreased GVHD severity in multiple disease models. Importantly, a lack of AMPK lessened GVHD without compromising antileukemia responses or impairing lymphopenia-driven immune reconstitution. Mechanistically, absence of AMPK decreased both CD4+ and CD8+ effector T cell numbers as early as day 3 posttransplant, while simultaneously increasing regulatory T cell (Treg) percentages. Improvements in GVHD resulted from cell-intrinsic perturbations in conventional effector T cells as depletion of donor Tregs had minimal impact on AMPK-related improvements. Together, these results highlight a specific role for AMPK in allogeneic effector T cells early posttransplant and suggest that AMPK inhibition may be an innovative approach to mitigate GVHD while preserving graft-versus-leukemia responses and maintaining robust immune reconstitution.
Darlene A. Monlish, Kevin J. Beezhold, Pailin Chiaranunt, Katelyn Paz, Nathan J. Moore, Andrea K. Dobbs, Rebecca A. Brown, John A. Ozolek, Bruce R. Blazar, Craig A. Byersdorfer