Antithymocyte Globulins Suppress Dendritic Cell Function by Multiple Mechanisms

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Background.The polyclonal rabbit antithymocyte and anti-T-cell immunoglobulins (ATGs) Thymoglobulin (TG) and ATG-Fresenius S (ATG-F) have been widely used for the prevention and therapy of allograft rejection and graft versus host disease in transplantation. Although immunosuppressive mechanisms of ATGs on T cells are well studied, less is known about their impact on dendritic cells (DCs).Methods.Effects of TG and ATG-F on immune functions and signaling pathways of human monocyte-derived DCs were determined by flow cytometry, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, Western blot, apoptosis assays, endocytosis assays, and T cell stimulation assays.Results.TG and ATG-F bind rapidly and with high affinity to CD11c, CD80, CD86, CD40, CD36, CD38, CD206, and human leukocyte antigen-DR on DCs. TG and, to a lesser extent, ATG-F induce apoptosis in immature and mature DCs. Macropinocytotic and receptor-mediated endocytotic antigen uptake in immature DCs is inhibited by TG and ATG-F due to their binding of the C-type lectins CD206 and CD209. TG and ATG-F induce activation of the mitogen-activated protein kinases ERK1/2 and p38 that contributes to the induction of apoptosis. TG and ATG-F also induce cytoplasmic-nuclear translocation of the NF-κB/Rel transcription factors RelB, RelA, p50, and p52. Production of interleukin-12p70 in mature DCs is suppressed by TG and ATG-F. TG and ATG-F reduce the capacity of mature DCs to stimulate allogeneic and autologous T cells.Conclusions.ATGs interfere with basic DC functions, suggesting that DCs are relevant targets for the immunosuppressive action of ATGs in transplantation.

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