Tissue-Resident Lymphocytes in Solid Organ Transplantation: Innocent Passengers or the Key to Organ Transplant Survival?

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Abstract

Short-term outcomes of solid organ transplantation have improved dramatically over the past several decades; however, long-term survival has remained static over the same period, and chronic rejection remains a major cause of graft failure. The importance of donor, or “passenger,” lymphocytes to the induction of tolerance to allografts was recognized in the 1990s, but their precise contribution to graft acceptance or rejection has not been elucidated. Recently, specialized populations of tissue-resident lymphocytes in nonlymphoid organs have been described. These lymphocytes include tissue-resident memory T cells, regulatory T cells, γδ T cells, invariant natural killer T cells, and innate lymphoid cells. These cells reside in commonly transplanted solid organs, including the liver, kidneys, heart, and lung; however, their contribution to graft acceptance or rejection has not been examined in detail. Similarly, it is unclear whether tissue-resident cells derived from the pool of recipient-derived lymphocytes play a specific role in transplantation biology. This review summarizes the evidence for the roles of tissue-resident lymphocytes in transplant immunology, focussing on their features, functions, and relevance for solid organ transplantation, with specific reference to liver, kidney, heart, and lung transplantation.

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