Intrathymic injection of donor alloantigens induces donor-specific vascularized allograft tolerance without immunosuppression

Ann Surg. 1992 Oct;216(4):409-14; discussion 414-6. doi: 10.1097/00000658-199210000-00003.


The induction of donor-specific tolerance could prevent the side effects of immunosuppression while improving allograft survival. Male adult Buffalo (RT1b) rats underwent an intrathymic (IT), portal venous (PV), intrasplenic (IS), or subcutaneous (SQ) injection of 25 x 10(6) major histocompatibility complex (MHC) mismatched Lewis (RT1(1)), UV-B-irradiated Lewis (RT1(1)), ACI (RT1a), or syngeneic Buffalo (RT1b) splenocytes. At the completion of the donor alloantigen injection, 1 mL rabbit anti-rat lymphocyte serum (ALS) was administered intraperitoneally to the Buffalo recipients, and 21 days later a heterotopic Lewis or ACI heart was transplanted. Intrathymic injection of donor alloantigen induced a donor-specific tolerance that allowed the cardiac allograft to survive indefinitely (mean survival time [MST] > 140.7 days) in 84% of the recipients without further immunosuppression, whereas groups receiving antigen injections at other sites (PV, IS, and SQ) plus ALS rejected cardiac allografts in normal fashion (MST approximately 8.0 days). Buffalo recipient rats with long-term surviving Lewis cardiac allografts after Lewis IT injection and ALS subsequently rejected a heterotopic third-party ACI cardiac allograft in normal fashion (MST approximately 7 days), whereas a second Lewis cardiac allograft was not rejected (MST > 116 days). Microchimerism is unlikely because Lewis allograft survival was also prolonged (MST > 38.7 days) in rats receiving UV-B-irradiated splenocytes IT, which cannot proliferate. Survival of Lewis renal allografts was also prolonged, but not indefinitely, in Buffalo recipients possessing a long-term surviving Lewis cardiac allograft (MST approximately 17.6 days versus 7 days for control). This model emphasizes the potential role of exposure of immature thymocytes to foreign donor alloantigens during maturation in the thymic environment for the development of unresponsiveness to an MHC-mismatched donor-specific vascularized allograft.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antilymphocyte Serum / administration & dosage
  • Graft Survival
  • Heart Transplantation / immunology*
  • Histocompatibility Antigens / immunology
  • Immune Tolerance*
  • Injections
  • Injections, Subcutaneous
  • Isoantigens / administration & dosage*
  • Isoantigens / immunology
  • Kidney Transplantation / immunology*
  • Male
  • Portal Vein
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred BUF
  • Rats, Inbred Lew
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Spleen
  • Thymus Gland


  • Antilymphocyte Serum
  • Histocompatibility Antigens
  • Isoantigens