Eosinophils in the blood of hematopoietic stem cell transplanted patients are activated and have different molecular marker profiles in acute and chronic graft-versus-host disease


  • Funding information
  • This work was supported by grants from the Cancer and Allergy Foundation, ALF Research Foundation, ALF Strategic Transplantation Initiative, Västra Götaland Region Research Funds, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Assar Gabrielsson Foundation, The Göteborg Medical Society, IngaBritt and Arne Lundgren Foundation, and Martina Lundgren Foundation.


While increased numbers of eosinophils may be detected in patients with graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) following hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, it is not known if eosinophils play a role in GVHD. The aims of this study were to determine: whether eosinophils are activated during GVHD; whether the patterns of activation are similar in acute and chronic GVHD; and the ways in which systemic corticosteroids affect eosinophils. Transplanted patients (n = 35) were investigated for eosinophil numbers and the expression levels of 16 eosinophilic cell surface markers using flow cytometry; all the eosinophil data were analyzed by the multivariate method OPLS-DA. Different patterns of molecule expression were observed on the eosinophils from patients with acute, chronic, and no GVHD, respectively. The molecules that provided the best discrimination between acute and chronic GVHD were: the activation marker CD9; adhesion molecules CD11c and CD18; chemokine receptor CCR3; and prostaglandin receptor CRTH2. Patients with acute or chronic GVHD who received systemic corticosteroid treatment showed down-regulation of the cell surface markers on their eosinophils, whereas corticosteroid treatment had no effect on the eosinophil phenotype in the patients without GVHD. In summary, eosinophils are activated in GVHD, display different activation profiles in acute and chronic GVHD, and are highly responsive to systemic corticosteroids.