Impact of Graft-Versus-Graft Natural Killer Cell Alloreactivity on Single Unit Dominance After Double Umbilical Cord Blood Transplantation

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Abstract

Background

Natural killer (NK) cell alloreactivity is favored after double umbilical cord blood transplantation (dUCBT) in which cord blood (UCB) units and patients are often HLA class I mismatched. Generally, only 1 UCB unit persists after dUCBT. We hypothesize, that NK cell alloreactivity mediated by killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptor (KIR)-HLA interactions may explain the dominance of 1UCB unit over the other after dUCBT.

Methods

We investigated the impact of KIR+ NK cell alloreactivities on the dominance of 1 full UCB unit in 50 dUCBT. We analyzed the effects of the KIR/HLA genetic incompatibilities and studied cord blood cells at both the phenotypic and functional levels.

Results

The genetic combination of KIR3DL1+ loser UCB unit/Bw4− winner UCB unit determined both the dominance of 1 UCB unit (hazards ratio, 2.88 [1.32-6.27], P = 0.0077) and correlated with an increased incidence of relapse (hazards ratio, 4.91 [1.39-17.3], P = 0.0134). It is interesting to note that cord blood cells exhibited extremely low HLA class I expression. Moreover, resting cord blood KIR3DL1+ NK cells exhibited a basal alloreactivity against Bw4− target cells that increased upon activation, thus triggering death by apoptosis.

Conclusions

Our unicentric study suggests, for the first time, the significant impact of KIR+ NK cell alloreactivity in the determination of which UCB unit will dominate in dUCBT.

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