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Keywords:

  • Depletion;
  • immunosuppression;
  • T cell;
  • transplantation

T-cell depletion facilitates reduced immunosuppression following organ transplantation and has been suggested to be pro-tolerant. However, the characteristics of post-depletional T cells have not been evaluated as they relate to tolerance induction. We therefore studied patients undergoing profound T-cell depletion with alemtuzumab or rabbit anti-thymocyte globulin following renal transplantation, evaluating the phenotype and functional characteristics of their residual cells. Naïve T cells and T cells with potential regulatory function (CD4+CD25+) were not prevalent following aggressive depletion. Rather, post-depletion T cells were of a single phenotype (CD3+CD4+CD45RA-CD62L-CCR7-) consistent with depletion-resistant effector memory T cells that expanded in the first month and were uniquely prevalent at the time of rejection. These cells were resistant to steroids, deoxyspergualin or sirolimus in vitro, but were calcineurin-inhibitor sensitive. These data demonstrate that therapeutic depletion begets a limited population of functional memory-like T cells that are easily suppressed with certain immunosuppressants, but cannot be considered uniquely pro-tolerant.