Terminally Differentiated CD8+ T Cells Negatively Affect Bone Regeneration in Humans

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There is growing evidence that adaptive immunity contributes to endogenous regeneration processes: For example, endogenous bone fracture repair is modulated by T cells even in the absence of infection. Because delayed or incomplete fracture healing is associated with poor long-term outcomes and high socioeconomic costs, we investigated the relationship between an individual’s immune reactivity and healing outcome. Our study revealed that delayed fracture healing significantly correlated with enhanced levels of terminally differentiated CD8+ effector memory T (TEMRA) cells (CD3+CD8+CD11a++CD28−CD57+ T cells) in peripheral blood. This difference was long lasting, reflecting rather the individual’s immune profile in response to lifelong antigen exposure than a post-fracture reaction. Moreover, CD8+ TEMRA cells were enriched in fracture hematoma; these cells were the major producers of interferon-γ/tumor necrosis factor–α, which inhibit osteogenic differentiation and survival of human mesenchymal stromal cells. Accordingly, depletion of CD8+ T cells in a mouse osteotomy model resulted in enhanced endogenous fracture regeneration, whereas a transfer of CD8+ T cells impaired the healing process. Our data demonstrate the high impact of the individual adaptive immune profile on endogenous bone regeneration. Quantification of CD8+ TEMRA cells represents a potential marker for the prognosis of the healing outcome and opens new opportunities for early and targeted intervention strategies.

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