Activated CD4+ T Cells and Highly Differentiated Alloreactive CD4+ T Cells Distinguish Operationally Tolerant Liver Transplantation Recipients

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Abstract

Spontaneous operational tolerance to the allograft develops in a proportion of liver transplantation (LT) recipients weaned off immunosuppressive (IS) drugs. Several studies have investigated whether peripheral blood circulating T cells could play a role in the development or identify operational tolerance, but never characterized alloreactive T cells in detail due to the lack of a marker for these T cells. In this study, we comprehensively investigated phenotypic and functional characteristics of alloreactive circulating T cell subsets in tolerant LT recipients (n = 15) using multiparameter flow cytometry and compared these with LT recipients on IS drugs (n = 23) and healthy individuals (n = 16). Activation-induced CD137 was used as a marker for alloreactive T cells upon allogenic stimulation. We found that central and effector memory CD4+ T cells were hyporesponsive against donor and third-party splenocyte stimulation in tolerant LT recipients, whereas an overall hyperresponsiveness was observed in alloreactive terminally differentiated effector memory CD4+ T cells. In addition, elevated percentages of circulating activated T helper cells were observed in these recipients. Lastly, tolerant and control LT recipients did not differ in donor-specific antibody formation. In conclusion, a combination of circulating hyperresponsive highly differentiated alloreactive CD4+ T cells and circulating activated T helper cells could discriminate tolerant recipients from a larger group of LT recipients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)98-112
Number of pages15
JournalLiver Transplantation
Volume28
Issue number1
Early online date3 Jun 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022

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