Background: Pancreatic islet transplantation has the potential to cure type 1 diabetes, a chronic lifelong disease, but its clinical applicability is limited by allograft rejection. Nuclear factor κB (NF-κB) is a transcription factor important for survival and differentiation of T cells. In this study, we tested whether NF-κB in T cells is required for the rejection of islet allografts.
Methods: Mice expressing a superrepressor form of NF-κB selectively in T cells (IκBαΔN-Tg mice) with or without the antiapoptotic factor Bcl-xL, or mice with impaired T-cell receptor (TCR)- and B cell receptor-driven NF-κB activity (CARMA1-KO mice) were rendered diabetic and transplanted with islet allografts. Secondary skin transplantation in long-term acceptors of islet allografts was used to test for the development of donor-specific tolerance. Immune infiltration of the transplanted islets was examined by immunofluorescence. TCR-transgenic CD4 T cells were used to follow T-cell priming and differentiation.
Results: Islet allograft survival was prolonged in IκBαΔN-Tg mice, although the animals did not develop donor-specific tolerance. Reduced NF-κB activity did not prevent T-cell priming or differentiation but reduced survival of activated T cells, as transgenic expression of Bcl-xL restored islet allograft rejection in IκBαΔN-Tg mice. Abolishing TCR- and B cell receptor-driven activation of NF-κB selectively by CARMA1 deficiency prevented T-cell priming and islet allograft rejection.
Conclusions: Our data suggest that T cell-NF-κB plays an important role in the rejection of islet allografts. Targeting NF-κB selectively in lymphocytes seems a promising approach to facilitate acceptance of transplanted islets.