Vascularized composite allografts (VCA) are novel, life-enhancing forms of transplantation (Tx). However, host immune responses to the various VCA components, especially those involving skin, are complex and make selection of appropriate therapy challenging. Although the interplay between Foxp3+ T regulatory (Treg) cells and CD4 and CD8 effector T cells is of central importance in determining the acceptance or rejection of solid organ allografts, there is little information available concerning the contribution of Treg cells to VCA survival. In addition, the effects of therapeutic expansion in vivo of host Treg cell populations on VCA survival are unknown.Methods
We established a fully major histocompatibility complex-disparate (BALB/c- > C57BL/6) murine orthotopic forelimb Tx model to explore the benefits of pre- and post-Tx IL-2/anti-IL-2 monoclonal antibody complex (IL-2C) administration to expand the host Treg cell population and thereby attempt to promote Treg cell–dependent VCA survival.Results
Both strategies expanded the Treg cell population in vivo and prolonged VCA survival (P < 0.001), but IL-2C administration pre-Tx led to significantly longer survival compared with IL-2C administration post-Tx (P < 0.01). In addition, compared with post-Tx therapy, pre-Tx therapy resulted in an increased ratio of Treg cells to CD8+ T cells (P < 0.001), reduced proliferation of CD4 and CD8 effector T cells, and reduced production of IFN-γ. Optimal effects were seen when combined with rapamycin therapy, whereas the combination of IL-2C therapy plus calcineurin inhibitor was counterproductive.Conclusions
Our studies involving different IL-2C-mediated Treg cell expansion strategies demonstrate that pre-Tx IL-2C therapy may be a useful component for developing strategies to promote VCA survival.