Background: An inducible costimulator (ICOS), a recently identified costimulatory receptor with a close structural homology to CD28 and CTLA4, is expressed on activated T cells. Interaction with its ligand on antigen-presenting cells stimulates T-cell proliferation to produce a different spectrum of cytokine. The inhibition of ICOS-mediated signal transduction by an anti-ICOS antibody is considered to be capable of protecting against graft rejection in organ transplantation.
Methods: An anti-rat ICOS antibody was intravenously administered into recipients of dark Agouti-to-Lewis liver transplantations. The recipient lymphocytes from mesenteric lymph nodes were harvested on day 7 after transplantation for fluorescence-activated cell sorting analysis, and tissue specimens from the grafts were removed for histologic evaluation. Antigen-specific T-cell proliferation responses were assessed in vitro with anti-ICOS antibody.
Results: Monotherapy with the antibody significantly prolonged the graft survival time by inhibiting T-cell activation and its proliferation response. The graft-infiltrating cells, both CD4 and CD8 T cells, were not completely reduced even when rats were administered the antibody, whereas the expression of ICOS almost completely disappeared in these cells.
Conclusions: T-cell activation through the ICOS costimulatory pathway plays an important role in graft rejection, and manipulating its pathway is an effective method for modulating transplantation immunity.