Sclerodermatous chronic graft-versus-host disease induced by host T-cell-mediated autoimmunity

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Despite a long-standing hypothesis that chronic graft-versus-host disease (cGVHD) is an autoimmune disorder, most mouse models of cGVHD have been developed on the assumption that donor T cells are essential for its development. Here we show that cGVHD may be caused by autoreactive host T cells in mice that have been lethally irradiated and grafted with T-celldepleted allogeneic bone marrow cells. In this chimera, host T cells derived from radioresistant intrathymic T-cell precursors caused dermal fibrosis and periportal inflammation, without the requirement for donor T cells. The lack of host DCs within the thymus after high-dose irradiation allowed autoreactive host T cells to escape thymic negative selection. Moreover, the homeostatic expansion of these T cells may augment their autoreactivity. These findings indicate that host T-cell-mediated cGVHD is an autoimmune process that occurs following the grafting of T-cell-depleted BM cells into hosts with functioning thymuses. We propose, based on the present data, that host T-cell-dependent autoimmunity is a potential mechanism by which cGVHD is induced.

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