Thymic graft-versus-host disease (tGVHD) can contribute to profound T cell deficiency and repertoire restriction after allogeneic BM transplantation (allo-BMT). However, the cellular mechanisms of tGVHD and interactions between donor alloreactive T cells and thymic tissues remain poorly defined. Using clinically relevant murine allo-BMT models, we show here that even minimal numbers of donor alloreactive T cells, which caused mild nonlethal systemic graft-versus-host disease, were sufficient to damage the thymus, delay T lineage reconstitution, and compromise donor peripheral T cell function. Furthermore, to mediate tGVHD, donor alloreactive T cells required trafficking molecules, including CCR9, L selectin, P selectin glycoprotein ligand-1, the integrin subunits αE and β7, CCR2, and CXCR3, and costimulatory/inhibitory molecules, including Ox40 and carcinoembryonic antigen-associated cell adhesion molecule 1. We found that radiation in BMT conditioning regimens upregulated expression of the death receptors Fas and death receptor 5 (DR5) on thymic stromal cells (especially epithelium), while decreasing expression of the antiapoptotic regulator cellular caspase-8–like inhibitory protein. Donor alloreactive T cells used the cognate proteins FasL and TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) (but not TNF or perforin) to mediate tGVHD, thereby damaging thymic stromal cells, cytoarchitecture, and function. Strategies that interfere with Fas/FasL and TRAIL/DR5 interactions may therefore represent a means to attenuate tGVHD and improve T cell reconstitution in allo-BMT recipients.
Il-Kang Na, Sydney X. Lu, Nury L. Yim, Gabrielle L. Goldberg, Jennifer Tsai, Uttam Rao, Odette M. Smith, Christopher G. King, David Suh, Daniel Hirschhorn-Cymerman, Lia Palomba, Olaf Penack, Amanda M. Holland, Robert R. Jenq, Arnab Ghosh, Hien Tran, Taha Merghoub, Chen Liu, Gregory D. Sempowski, Melissa Ventevogel, Nicole Beauchemin, Marcel R.M. van den Brink