Lymphodepletion and homeostatic proliferation: implications for transplantation

Am J Transplant. 2012 May;12(5):1079-90. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-6143.2012.04008.x. Epub 2012 Mar 15.


Control of the alloimmune response requires elimination and/or suppression of alloreactive immune cells. Lymphodepleting induction therapies are increasingly used to accomplish this goal, both as part of tolerance induction protocols or to reduce the requirements for maintenance immunosuppression in the peritransplant setting. However, it is well recognized that lymphopenia induces compensatory proliferation of immune cells, generally termed ``homeostatic proliferation,'' which favors the emergence of memory T cells. Paradoxically therefore, the result may be a situation that favors graft rejection and/or makes tolerance difficult to achieve or sustain. Yet all depletion is not alike, particularly with respect to the timing of reconstitution and the types of cells that repopulate the host. Thus, to design more effective induction strategies it is important to understand the homeostatic mechanisms, which exist to maintain a balanced repertoire of naïve and memory T and B cells in the periphery and how they respond to lymphodepletion. Here we will review the biology of homeostatic proliferation stimulated by lymphopenia, the effects of specific depleting agents on reconstitution of the T- and B-cell immune repertoire, drawing from both from animal models and human experience, and potential strategies to enhance allodepletion while minimizing the adverse effects of homeostatic proliferation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Homeostasis / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance*
  • T-Lymphocytes / cytology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Transplantation Immunology*