Allogeneic bone marrow donors can be incompatible at different levels. Even HLA-identical pairs will be still incompatible for numerous minor histocompatibility antigens (mHag). Nevertheless, some incompatibilities are found to be associated with an increased risk of graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), which could be related to the way the immune system recognizes these antigens.Methods.
We determined the specificity of cytotoxic T-cell clones isolated during acute GVHD or during bone marrow graft rejection in patients (n=14) transplanted with marrow from donors who were histoincompatible for different minor and/or major histocompatibility antigens.Results.
We found a clear hierarchy among the different types of histoincompatibilities. In three combinations mismatched for a class I allele, all 27 clones isolated during GVHD were specific for the incompatible HLA molecule. In the 11 class I-identical combinations, 14 different mHags were recognized. The mHag HA-1, known to have a significant impact on the development of GVHD, was recognized in the two HA-1-incompatible combinations. In one of these combinations, which was sex mismatched, all 56 clones analyzed were directed against HA-1, demonstrating the dominance of this mHag. In the four HA-1-compatible, sex-mismatched combinations, the anti-H-Y response was directed against one immunodominant epitope rather than against multiple Y-chromosome-encoded epitopes. All male specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (n = 15) recognized the same high-performance liquid chromatography-purified peptide fraction presented by T2 cells. Moreover, all cytotoxic T lymphocytes tested (n=6) were specific for the SMCY-derived peptide FIDSYICQV, originally described as being the H-Y epitope recognized in the context of HLA-A*0201.Conclusions.
Some histocompatibility antigens are recognized in an immunodominant fashion and will therefore be recognized in the majority of mismatched combinations. Only for such antigens, correlations between mismatches and the occurrence of GVHD or graft rejections will be found.