IL-22 deficiency in donor T cells attenuates murine acute graft-versus-host disease mortality while sparing the graft-versus-leukemia effect

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Acute graft-versus-host disease (aGVHD) remains a major complication following allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (allo-HCT), limiting the success of this therapy. Many proinflammatory cytokines secreted following the conditioning regimen have been linked to aGVHD initiation. Interleukin-22 (IL-22) is a cytokine related to IL-10 for its structure and is secreted by T helper type 17 (TH17) cells and innate immune cells. Given the paradoxical role of IL-22 in inflammation with both protective or proinflammatory functions, we investigated whether IL-22 could have a role in aGVHD pathophysiology in a mouse allo-HCT model. In this study, we show that IL-22 deficiency in donor T cells can decrease the severity of aGVHD, while limiting systemic and local inflammation in aGVHD target organs. In addition, we found that Foxp3+ regulatory T cells (Treg cells) were increased in recipient mice that received IL-22-deficient T cells, suggesting that Treg were involved in the reduced severity of GVHD. Finally, we found that the graft-versus-leukemia (GVL) effect mediated by donor T cells was preserved in the absence of IL-22. Overall, these data suggest that targeting of IL-22 may represent a valid approach towards decreasing aGVHD severity after allo-HCT while preserving the GVL effect.

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