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In the hamster to rat xenogeneic combination, antibodies, T cells, and natural killer (NK) cells have all been implicated in the process of rejection. 3.2.3 is a mouse IgG1κ monoclonal antibody (mAb) directed against NKR-P1A on rat NK cells. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of this mAb independently and in combination with other immunosuppressive agents in a hamster to rat skin graft model in order to elucidate the mechanisms involved in xenograft rejection.


Lewis rats were recipients of hamster skin grafts. Various groups received antilymphocyte serum (ALS) (days -1, 0, and +2), rapamycin (3 mg/kg; alternate days from day +1 through day +13), and 3.2.3 mAb (days 0, +1, and+2). Anti-hamster antibody production was determined serially with a complement-dependent cytotoxicity assay. Lewis anti-hamster mixed lymphocyte reaction and cell-mediated lympholysis assays were performed within 7 days after rejection of the skin graft. NK cell function was tested using a cytotoxicity assay versus YAC-1 target cells on day 14 or day 15 after skin grafting.


Median graft survival in untreated animals was 7 days. There was only modest prolongation in rats treated with rapamycin alone (median survival time [MST]=9 days) or ALS alone (MST=10 days). The use of 3.2.3 mAb in untreated rats (3.2.3 alone MST=7 days) and in ALS-treated rats (ALS+3.2.3 MST=9.5 days) did not improve graft survival. The combination of ALS+rapamycin substantially improved graft survival (MST=13 days), and even greater prolongation was seen with the addition of 3.2.3 mAb (ALS+rapamycin+3.2.3 MST=18.5 days). Cytotoxic antibodies, secondary mixed lymphocyte reaction responses, cytotoxic T cells, and normal NK activity were seen at the time of rejection in untreated rats as well as those treated with 3.2.3 mAb alone, ALS alone, ALS+3.2.3 mAb, and rapamycin alone. ALS+rapamycin completely blocked the formation of anti-hamster antibodies and cytotoxic T cells but did not suppress NK activity. The use of 3.2.3 mAb produced a marked but transient suppression of NK activity in all groups.


Hamster skin xenografts can be rejected by Lewis rats in the absence of cytotoxic antibodies and cytotoxic T cells. ALS, rapamycin, and ALS+rapamycin do not suppress NK activity in Lewis rats, although their use produces a modest prolongation of hamster skin graft survival. The administration of 3.2.3 mAb to Lewis rats results in a marked but transient suppression of NK cell function, which substantially prolongs hamster skin graft survival only when antibody and cytotoxic T-cell production have also been suppressed.

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