Allogeneic stem cell transplantation (alloSCT) is a life-saving therapy for hematologic malignancies and inherited disorders such as sickle cell anemia and thalassemia. T cells in alloSCT grafts play two pivotal roles: 1) they reconstitute T cell immunity in adults who, due to thymic involution, do not develop significant numbers of donor stem cell-derived T cells; and 2) they mediate an antineoplastic effect. Unfortunately, donor T cells also cause Graft-vs.-Host Disease (GVHD), the attack of donor T cells against recipient tissues. Therefore, all patients receive GVHD prophylaxis either via depletion of T cells from the allograft or with agents that impair T cell function. Nevertheless, GVHD and the infectious complications of immunosuppression are the major causes of morbidity in alloSCT. Professional antigen presenting cells (APCs) initiate alloimmune T cell responses by priming rare alloreactive T cells. Several features distinguish antigen presentation in transplantation from paradigms established in infectious models. First, alloSCT recipients are chimeric for donor and host APCs. Our work to date focused on characterizing the distinct roles for donor and host APCs in GVHD pathogenesis. Second, the roles of dendritic cell (DC) subsets, which in infectious models have distinct properties, have not been well defined in transplantation models. The development of effective strategies to target them to decrease GVHD depends on this knowledge. Third, the current model for DCs in adaptive immunity, in which pathogen-derived ligands for pattern associated molecular pattern receptors, stimulate immature DCs to mature and migrate to secondary lymph nodes, may not apply in alloSCT where there are no specific infectious pathogens, all recipient APCs present alloantigen and signals that induce DC maturation are unknown. In this proposal we: 1) use novel transgenic mice that lack DCs or DC subsets, antibodies and immunotoxins to define critical APC subsets in GVHD; and 2) use transgenic and and gene-deficient mice to test hypotheses regarding how DCs mature in alloSCT. Relevance: The deleterious effect of immune cells of the donor limits the application of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation in treatment of cancer and inherited diseases such as sickle cell anemia. The goals of our studies are to understand how immune cells are activated to cause disease and to modulate this activation so as to improve the safety and efficacy of stem cell transplantation. ? ? ?
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