Central clonal deletion has been considered the critical factor responsible for the robust state of tolerance achieved by chimerism-based experimental protocols, but split-tolerance models and the clinical experience are calling this assumption into question. Although clone-size reduction through deletion has been shown to be universally required for achieving allotolerance, it remains undetermined whether it is sufficient by itself. Therapeutic Treg treatment induces chimerism and tolerance in a stringent murine BM transplantation model devoid of myelosuppressive recipient treatment. In contrast to irradiation chimeras, chronic rejection (CR) of skin and heart allografts in Treg chimeras was permanently prevented, even in the absence of complete clonal deletion of donor MHC-reactive T cells. We show that minor histocompatibility antigen mismatches account for CR in irradiation chimeras without global T cell depletion. Furthermore, we show that Treg therapy–induced tolerance prevents CR in a linked suppression–like fashion, which is maintained by active regulatory mechanisms involving recruitment of thymus-derived Tregs to the graft. These data suggest that highly efficient intrathymic and peripheral deletion of donor-reactive T cells for specificities expressed on hematopoietic cells preclude the expansion of donor-specific Tregs and, hence, do not allow for spreading of tolerance to minor specificities that are not expressed by donor BM.
Nina Pilat, Benedikt Mahr, Lukas Unger, Karin Hock, Christoph Schwarz, Andreas M. Farkas, Ulrike Baranyi, Fritz Wrba, Thomas Wekerle