Minor histocompatibility antigens, defined by graft-vs.-host disease-derived cytotoxic T lymphocytes, show variable expression on human skin cells

Eur J Immunol. 1991 Nov;21(11):2839-44. doi: 10.1002/eji.1830211127.


Little is known on the effector mechanisms inducing the cutaneous lesions observed during acute graft-vs.-host disease (aGvHD) after allogeneic bone marrow transplantation (BMT). Histological findings have indicated that infiltrating CD8+ lymphocytes probably play a role. We addressed the question of whether host minor histocompatibility (mH) antigen-reactive cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) could account for this phenomenon via direct lysis of the epidermal cell layer. Six CTL clones, obtained from peripheral blood lymphocytes of patients suffering from aGvHD, each recognizing a well-characterized MHC class I-restricted mH antigen epitope, were tested on cultured keratinocytes of nine MHC and mH antigen-typed donors. Four of six mH antigen-specific CTL clones lysed unstimulated MHC class I-expressing, as well as recombinant interferon-gamma (rIFN-gamma)-activated, ICAM-1, MHC class I- and II-expressing keratinocytes. Two strongly cytolytic CTL clones showed no recognition of keratinocytes of donors whose phytohemagglutinin-activated T cell lines were readily lysed. With respect to a GvHD, the results imply that some class I-restricted CTL obtained from peripheral blood lymphocytes of a GvHD patients have the in vitro potential to destroy resting as well as IFN-gamma-activated epidermal cells, whereas others do not. In other words, CTL-defined human mH antigens vary with respect to their expression in the skin. It is intriguing that those minor H antigens which cannot be detected on human keratinocytes in vitro are those known to be associated with the occurrence of GvHD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / immunology
  • Antigens, Surface / immunology
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules / analysis
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Graft vs Host Disease / immunology*
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / analysis
  • Humans
  • Intercellular Adhesion Molecule-1
  • Interferon-gamma / pharmacology
  • Keratinocytes / immunology
  • Minor Histocompatibility Antigens / immunology*
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Skin / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / immunology*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / pharmacology


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antigens, Surface
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I
  • Minor Histocompatibility Antigens
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Intercellular Adhesion Molecule-1
  • Interferon-gamma