Vα14 NK T cell–triggered IFN-γ production by Gr-1+CD11b+ cells mediates early graft loss of syngeneic transplanted islets

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Pancreatic islet transplantation is a highly promising approach for the treatment of insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. However, the procedure remains experimental for several reasons, including its low efficiency caused by the early graft loss of transplanted islets. We demonstrate that Gr-1+CD11b+ cells generated by transplantation and their IFN-γ production triggered by Vα14 NKT cells are an essential component and a major cause of early graft loss of pancreatic islet transplants. Gr-1+CD11b+ cells from Vα14 NKT cell–deficient (Jα281/) mice failed to produce IFN-γ, resulting in efficient islet graft acceptance. Early graft loss was successfully prevented through the repeated administration of α-galactosylceramide, a specific ligand for Vα14 NKT cells, resulting in dramatically reduced IFN-γ production by Gr-1+CD11b+ cells, as well as Vα14 NKT cells. Our study elucidates, for the first time, the crucial role of Gr-1+CD11b+ cells and the IFN-γ they produce in islet graft rejection and suggests a novel approach to improving transplantation efficiency through the modulation of Vα14 NKT cell function.

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