Tolerogenic dendritic cells induced by vitamin D receptor ligands enhance regulatory T cells inhibiting allograft rejection and autoimmune diseases



Dendritic cells (DCs) not only induce but also modulate T cell activation. 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 [1,25(OH)2D3] induces DCs with a tolerogenic phenotype, characterized by decreased expression of CD40, CD80, and CD86 costimulatory molecules, low IL-12 and enhanced IL-10 secretion. We have found that a short treatment with 1,25(OH)2D3 induces tolerance to fully mismatched mouse islet allografts that is stable to challenge with donor-type spleen cells and allows acceptance of donor-type vascularized heart grafts. This effect is enhanced by co-administration of mycophenolate mofetil (MMF), a selective inhibitor of T and B cell proliferation that has also effects similar to 1,25(OH)2D3 on DCs. Graft acceptance is associated with an increased percentage of CD4+CD25+ regulatory cells in the spleen and in the draining lymph node that can protect 100% of syngeneic recipients from islet allograft rejection. CD4+CD25+ cells, able to inhibit the T cell response to a pancreatic autoantigen and to significantly delay disease transfer by pathogenic CD4+CD25 cells, are also induced by treatment of adult nonobese diabetic (NOD) mice with 1,25-dihydroxy-16,23Z-diene-26,27-hexafluoro-19-nor vitamin D3 (BXL-698). This treatment arrests progression of insulitis and Th1 cell infiltration, and inhibits diabetes development at non-hypercalcemic doses. The enhancement of CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells, able to mediate transplantation tolerance and to arrest type 1 diabetes development by a short oral treatment with VDR ligands, suggests possible clinical applications of this approach. J. Cell. Biochem. 88: 227–233, 2003. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.