Background: Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) remains the main barrier to broader application of allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (alloSCT) as a curative therapy for host malignancy. GVHD is mediated by allogeneic T cells directed against histocompatibility antigens expressed by host tissues. Based on previous studies, we postulated that the integrin CD103 is required for CD8-mediated GVHD, but not for graft-versus-tumor effects (GVT).
Methodology/principal findings: We herein provide evidence in support of this hypothesis. To circumvent the potentially confounding influence of donor CD4 T cells, we developed an alloSCT model in which GVHD mortality is mediated by purified CD8 T cells. In this model, host-reactive CD8 T cells receive CD4 T cell help at the time of initial activation but not in the effector phase in which mature CD8 T effectors migrate into host tissues. We show that donor CD8 T cells from wild-type BALB/c mice primed to host alloantigens induce GVHD pathology and eliminate tumors of host origin in the absence of host CD4 T cells. Importantly, CD103 deficiency dramatically attenuated GVHD mortality, but had no detectable impact on the capacity to eliminate a tumor line of host origin. We provide evidence that CD103 is required for accumulation of donor CD8 T cells in the host intestinal epithelium but not in the tumor or host lymphoid compartments. Consistent with these data, CD103 was preferentially expressed by CD8 T cells infiltrating the host intestinal epithelium but not by those infiltrating the tumor, lamina propria, or lymphoid compartments. We further demonstrate that CD103 expression is not required for classic CD8 effector activities including cytokine production and cytotoxicity.
Conclusions/significance: These data indicate that CD103 deficiency inhibits GVHD pathology while sparing anti-tumor effects mediated by CD8 T cells, identifying CD103 blockade as an improved strategy for GVHD prophylaxis.