Background: Liver parenchymal cell allografts initiate both CD4-dependent and CD4-independent, CD8(+) T cell-mediated acute rejection pathways. The magnitude of allospecific CD8(+) T cell in vivo cytotoxic effector function is maximal when primed in the presence of CD4(+) T cells. The current studies were conducted to determine if and how CD4(+) T cells might influence cytotoxic effector mechanisms.
Methods: Mice were transplanted with allogeneic hepatocytes. In vivo cytotoxicity assays and various gene-deficient recipient mice and target cells were used to determine the development of Fas-, TNF-α-, and perforin-dependent cytotoxic effector mechanisms after transplantation.
Results: CD8(+) T cells maturing in CD4-sufficient hepatocyte recipients develop multiple (Fas-, TNF-α-, and perforin-mediated) cytotoxic mechanisms. However, CD8(+) T cells, maturing in the absence of CD4(+) T cells, mediate cytotoxicity and transplant rejection that is exclusively TNF-α/TNFR-dependent. To determine the kinetics of CD4-mediated help, CD4(+) T cells were adoptively transferred into CD4-deficient mice at various times posttransplant. The maximal influence of CD4(+) T cells on the magnitude of CD8-mediated in vivo allocytotoxicityf occurs within 48 hours.
Conclusion: The implication of these studies is that interference of CD4(+) T cell function by disease or immunotherapy will have downstream consequences on both the magnitude of allocytotoxicity as well as the cytotoxic effector mechanisms used by allospecific CD8(+) cytolytic T cells.