Rapamycin induces ILT3(high)ILT4(high) dendritic cells promoting a new immunoregulatory pathway

Kidney Int. 2014 Apr;85(4):888-97. doi: 10.1038/ki.2013.337. Epub 2013 Oct 9.


ILT3(high)ILT4(high) dendritic cells (DCs) may cause anergy in CD4(+)CD45RO(+)CD25(+) T cells transforming them into regulatory T cells (Tregs). Here, we tested whether chronic exposure to rapamycin may modulate this immunoregulatory pathway in renal transplant recipients. Forty renal transplant patients with biopsy-proven chronic allograft nephropathy and receiving calcineurin inhibitors were randomly assigned to either calcineurin inhibitor dose reduction or withdrawal with rapamycin introduction. At conversion and 2 years thereafter, we measured the rapamycin effects on circulating DCs (BDCA1/BDCA2 and ILT3/ILT4 expression), CD4(+)/CD25(high)/Foxp3(+) Tregs, CD8(+)/CD28(-) T cells, and the Th1/Th2 balance in graft biopsies. In rapamycin-treated patients, peripheral BDCA2(+) cells were significantly increased along with ILT3/ILT4(+) DCs. The number of circulating CD4(+)/CD25(high)/Foxp3(+)/CTLA4(+) Tregs, CD8(+)CD28(-) T cells, and HLA-G serum levels were higher in the rapamycin-treated group. The number of ILT3/ILT4(+)BDCA2(+) DC was directly and significantly correlated with circulating Tregs and CD8(+)CD28(-) T cells. ILT3/ILT4 expression was increased in kidney biopsies at the end of the study period along with a significant bias toward a Th2 response within the graft only in the rapamycin-treated patients. Thus, rapamycin induces the upregulation of ILT3 and ILT4 on the DC surface, and this effect is associated with an increase in the number of Tregs and expansion of the CD8(+)CD28(-) T cell population. This suggests that mTOR inhibition may promote a novel immunoregulatory pathway.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Dendritic Cells / drug effects*
  • Dendritic Cells / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / pharmacology*
  • Kidney Transplantation
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / metabolism
  • Middle Aged
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / metabolism
  • Receptors, Immunologic / metabolism
  • Sirolimus / pharmacology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / drug effects*
  • Transplants / immunology


  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • LILRB2 protein, human
  • LILRB4 protein, human
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • Receptors, Immunologic
  • Sirolimus