Proangiogenic Function of T Cells in Corneal Transplantation

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Abstract

Background

Corneal neovascularization increases the risk of T cell–mediated allograft rejection. Here, we investigate whether T cells promote angiogenesis in transplantation.

Methods

Conventional effector T cells were collected from draining lymph nodes of allogeneic or syngeneic corneal transplanted BALB/c mice. T cells were either cocultured with vascular endothelial cells (VECs) to assess VEC proliferation or used in a mixed lymphocyte reaction assay. Messenger RNA (mRNA) expression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)-A, -C, and VEGF receptor 2 (VEGF-R2) in VECs was assessed by real-time PCR. VEGF-A protein expression was determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Flow cytometry was used to analyze VEGF-R2 expression in corneal CD31+ cells, and VEGF-A and IFNγ expression in corneal CD4+ T cells.

Results

Allogeneic T cells from high-risk (HR) grafted mice induced more VEC proliferation than those from syngeneic transplant recipients (P = 0.03). Vascular endothelial growth factor-A mRNA and protein expression were higher in T cells from draining lymph nodes (P = 0.03 and P = 0.04, respectively) and cornea (protein; P = 0.04) of HR compared with low-risk (LR) grafted hosts. Vascular endothelial growth factor-A, VEGF-C, and VEGF-R2 mRNA expression were increased in VECs when cocultured with T cells from HR transplants compared with LR transplants and naive mice. In addition, IFNγ blockade in T cell/VEC coculture increased VEC proliferation and VEGF-A protein expression, whereas blocking VEGF-A significantly reduced VEC proliferation (P = 0.04).

Conclusions

Allogeneic T cells from corneal transplant hosts promote VEC proliferation, probably via VEGF-A signaling, whereas IFNγ shows an antiangiogenic effect. Our data suggest that T cells are critical mediators of angiogenesis in transplantation.

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