Tolerance induction towards cardiac allografts under costimulation blockade is impaired in CCR7-deficient animals but can be restored by adoptive transfer of syngeneic plasmacytoid dendritic cells



Deficiency of transplant recipients for the chemokine receptor CCR7 was originally described to slightly increase the survival time of vascularized solid organ grafts, probably due to a reduced priming of alloreactive T cells. Using a model of allotolerance induction by donor-specific splenocyte transfusion (DST) in combination with anti-CD40L mAb-mediated costimulation blockade (CSB), we show here a striking failure of CCR7-deficient (CCR7−/−) recipients to tolerate cardiac allografts. Furthermore, in addition to the recently described lack of Treg, CCR7−/− mice were found to harbor significantly reduced numbers of plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) within peripheral as well as mesenteric lymph nodes (LNs), but not the bone marrow or spleen. pDCs had previously been suggested to function as tolerogenic APC during allograft transplantation, and a single transfer of syngeneic WT pDCs, but not conventional DCs, was indeed sufficient to rescue graft survival in DST+CSB-treated CCR7−/− recipients in a dose-dependent manner. We therefore conclude that the nearly complete absence of pDCs within LNs of CCR7−/− mice prevents the successful induction of DST+CSB-mediated allotolerance, leading to the observed acute rejection of cardiac allografts under tolerizing conditions.