The chronic graft-versus-host disease (cGVHD) in mice is characterized by the production of autoantibodies and immunopathology characteristic of systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus). The basic pathogenesis involves the cognate recognition of foreign MHC class II of host B cells by alloreactive CD4 T cells from the donor. CD4 T cells of the host are also necessary for the full maturation of host B cells before the transfer of donor T cells. CD8 T cells play critical roles as well. Donor CD8 T cells that are highly cytotoxic can ablate or prevent the lupus syndrome, in part by killing recipient B cells. Host CD8 T cells can reciprocally downregulate donor CD8 T cells, and thus prevent them from suppressing the autoimmune process. Thus, when the donor inoculum contains both CD4 T cells and CD8 T cells, the resultant syndrome depends on the balance of activities of these various cell populations. For example, in one cGVHD model (DBA/2(C57BL/6xDBA/2)F1, the disease is more severe in females, as it is in several of the spontaneous mouse models of lupus, as well as in human disease. The mechanism of this female skewing of disease appears to depend on the relative inability of CD8 cells of the female host to downregulate the donor CD4 T cells that drive the autoantibody response. In general, then, the abnormal CD4 T cell help and the modulating roles of CD8 T cells seen in cGVHD parallel the participation of T cells in genetic lupus in mice and human lupus, although these spontaneous syndromes are presumably not driven by overt alloreactivity.
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