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Keywords:

  • Costimulation;
  • graft acceptance;
  • regulatory cells

CD40–CD40L costimulatory interactions are crucial for allograft rejection, in that treatment with anti-CD40L mAb markedly prolongs allograft survival in several systems. Recent reports indicate that costimulatory blockade results in deletion of graft-reactive cells, which leads to allograft tolerance. To assess immunologic parameters that were influenced by inductive CD40–CD40L blockade, cardiac allograft recipients were treated with multiple doses of the anti-CD40L mAb MR1, which was remarkably effective at prolonging allograft survival. Acute allograft rejection responses such as IL-2 producing helper cell priming, Th1 priming, and alloantibody production were abrogated by anti-CD40L treatment. Interestingly, the spleens of mice bearing long-term cardiac allografts following inductive anti-CD40L treatment retained precursor donor alloantigen-reactive CTL, IL-2 producing helper cells, and Th1 in numbers comparable to those observed in naïve mice. These mice retained the ability to reject donor-strain skin allografts, but were incapable of rejecting the original cardiac allograft, or a second donor-strain cardiac allograft. Further, differentiated effector cells were incapable of mediating rejection following adoptive transfer into mice bearing long-term allografts, suggesting that regulatory cell function, rather than effector cell deletion was responsible for long-term graft acceptance. Collectively, these data demonstrate that inductive CD40–CD40L blockade does not result in the deletion of graft-reactive T cells, but induces the maintenance of these cells in a quiescent precursor state. They further point to a tissue specificity of this hyporesponsiveness, suggesting that not all donor alloantigen-reactive cells are subject to this regulation.