Depletion of LAG-3 Positive Cells in Cardiac Allograft Reveals Their Role in Rejection and Tolerance


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Abstract

Background.Lymphocyte-activated gene-3 (LAG-3, CD223) is upregulated during the early stages of T-cell activation and could be the target of cytotoxic antibodies for induction therapy in transplantation.Methods.Fully vascularized heterotopic allogeneic heart transplantation was performed in rats across a full major histocompatibility complex–mismatch barrier (LEW.1W into LEW.1A). Recipients received two injections (day 0 and 3) of cytotoxic antibodies directed to the extra-loop of LAG-3 immunoglobulin (Ig)-like N-terminal domain or control antibodies.Results.LAG-3 mRNA transcripts accumulated in cardiac allografts undergoing rejection, but not in peripheral lymphoid organs. Administration of anti-LAG-3 antibodies on the day of transplantation did not modify alloreactivity of T lymphocytes from the spleen and did not change the alloantibody response. However, it inhibited graft infiltration by effector mononuclear cells, reduced intragraft levels of interferon-γ mRNA and prolonged allograft survival from 6 days in controls to a median of 27 days. Anti-LAG-3 antibodies were also active in prolonging survival when administered in a delayed manner, after rejection onset. LAG-3 being also expressed by activated regulatory T (Treg) cells, we tested the effect of anti-LAG-3 antibodies on graft acceptance after donor blood transfusions, a Treg-dependent tolerance induction model. We found that tolerance induction was prevented by anti-LAG-3 antibodies.Conclusions.Targeting LAG-3-positive cells with cytotoxic antibodies is immunosuppressive in transplantation by depleting effectors T cells and therefore may represent a treatment for rejection episodes focused only on pathogenic cells. However, it might not be compatible with tolerance-induction strategies.

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