• Chimerism;
  • T cells;
  • Tolerance;
  • Transplantation


Stable mixed chimerism has been considered the most robust tolerance strategy. However, rejection of solid donor tissues by chimeras has been observed, a state termed split tolerance. Since new non-myeloablative mixed chimerism approaches are being actively pursued, we sought to determine whether they lead to full tolerance or split tolerance and to define the mechanisms involved. Fully mismatched mixed chimeras generated by induction with various lymphocyte-depleting antibodies along with either low-dose irradiation or busulfan and temporary sirolimus, maintained stable mixed chimerism but nevertheless rejected donor skin grafts. Generation of stable mixed chimerism using antibody targeting CD40L, but not depleting antibodies to CD4 and CD8, could prevent split tolerance when skin grafts were given together with donor bone marrow. Minor antigen matching abrogated the ability of effector T cells to reject donor skin grafts. A CFSE killing assay indicated that chimeras were both directly and indirectly tolerant of donor hematopoietic cell antigens, suggesting that minor mismatches triggered a tissue-specific response. Thus, split tolerance due to tissue-restricted polymorphic antigens prevents full tolerance in a number of non-myeloablative mixed chimerism protocols and a ‘tolerizing’ agent is required to overcome split tolerance. A model of the requirements for split tolerance is presented.