Despite recent evidence of improved graft outcomes and safety, the high incidence of early acute cellular rejection with belatacept, a high-affinity CTLA4-Ig, has limited its use in clinical transplantation. Here we define how the incomplete control of endogenous donor-reactive memory T cells results in belatacept-resistant rejection in an experimental model of BALB/c.2W-OVA donor heart transplantation into C57BL/6 recipients presensitized to donor splenocytes. These sensitized mice harbored modestly elevated numbers of endogenous donor-specific memory T cells and alloantibodies compared with naive recipients. Continuous CTLA4-Ig treatment was unexpectedly efficacious at inhibiting endogenous graft-reactive T cell expansion but was unable to inhibit late CD4+ and CD8+ T cell infiltration into the allografts, and rejection was observed in 50% of recipients by day 35 after transplantation. When CTLA4-Ig was combined with the sphingosine 1-phosphate receptor-1 (S1PR1) functional antagonist FTY720, alloantibody production was inhibited and donor-specific IFN-γ–producing T cells were reduced to levels approaching nonsensitized tolerant recipients. Late T cell recruitment into the graft was also restrained, and graft survival improved with this combination therapy. These observations suggest that a rational strategy consisting of inhibiting memory T cell expansion and trafficking into the allograft with CTLA4-Ig and FTY720 can promote allograft survival in allosensitized recipients.
Stella H. Khiew, Jinghui Yang, James S. Young, Jianjun Chen, Qiang Wang, Dengping Yin, Vinh Vu, Michelle L. Miller, Roger Sciammas, Maria-Luisa Alegre, Anita S. Chong