Neutralizing IL-7 Promotes Long-Term Allograft Survival Induced by CD40/CD40L Costimulatory Blockade

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Memory T cells are somewhat resistant to immunosuppresion. They therefore pose a threat to inducing long-term allograft survival. IL-7 is essential for memory T-cell generation. Here, we investigated whether neutralizing IL-7 promotes allograft survival. We found that neutralizing IL-7 alone did not significantly prolong allograft survival. However, blocking both IL-7 and CD154 signaling synergistically prolonged allograft survival. In contrast, neutralizing IL-2 failed to further prolong allograft survival induced by CD40/CD154 costimulatory blockade. Allospecific memory CD8+ T-cell generation was severely impaired under the treatment of anti-IL-7 plus anti-CD154 Ab while administering recombinant IL-7 enhanced CD8+ memory generation even under donor-specific transfusion plus anti-CD154 Ab treatment. Neutralizing IL-7, but not IL-2, together with blocking CD154 synergistically suppressed the proliferation of naïve/effector CD8+ T cells infiltrating grafts. Nevertheless, neutralizing IL-7 did not alter regulatory T-cell generation while neutralizing IL-2 suppressed their generation. Hence, targeting IL-7 represents a new strategy to prolong allograft survival by acting on both naïve and memory T cells. Long-term allograft survival may be achieved by neutralizing IL-7 plus CD40/CD154 blockade, since CD40/CD154 costimulatory blockade prevents acute rejection while neutralizing IL-7 suppresses the generation of memory T cells that persist and mediate late or chronic rejection.

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