Limiting Dilution Analysis of Interleukin-2 Producing Helper T-cell Frequencies as a Tool in Allogeneic Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation

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A reliable in vitro test that estimates the level of ongoing alloreactivity would be valuable in allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) as a help to guide clinical interventions such as donor lymphocyte infusions and changes in the immunosuppression. In the present study, the use of limiting dilution analysis of interleukin-2 (IL-2) producing helper T lymphocyte frequencies (HTL assay) as a way to quantify alloreactivity following HCT was investigated.


Serial HTL assays were performed following allogeneic HCT with myeloablative or nonmyeloablative conditioning in 26 patients with hematologic malignancies.


Deviations from single-hit kinetics were frequently observed in the HTL assays and a nonlinear model was therefore used for analysis. The results of this analysis suggested the presence of an inhibitory cell population. Inhibition was observed in the majority of patients and was not restricted to a specific transplant regimen. Inhibition occurred more often with high frequencies of IL-2 producing cells, indicating a physiological role of the putative inhibitory cell population in the regulation of an immune response. Higher frequencies of IL-2 producing cells were observed in patients with acute graft-versus-host disease grades II-IV than in patients with grades 0-I (P = 0.046), indicating that the degree of ongoing alloreactivity is indeed quantified by the HTL assay.


We find that the HTL assay may yield interesting insight into regulation of immune responses following allogeneic HCT, but because of the complexity of the results obtained, its use as a routine procedure to guide immunosuppression cannot be recommended.

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