Host natural killer immunity is a key indicator of permissiveness for donor cell engraftment in patients with severe combined immunodeficiency

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2014 Jun;133(6):1660-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2014.02.042. Epub 2014 May 1.


Background: Severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) can be cured by using allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, and the absence of host immunity often obviates the need for preconditioning. Depending on the underlying genetic defect and when blocks in differentiation occur during lymphocyte ontogeny, infants with SCID have absent or greatly reduced numbers of functional T cells. Natural killer (NK) cell populations are usually absent in the SCID-X1 and Janus kinase 3 forms of SCID and greatly reduced in adenosine deaminase deficiency SCID but often present in other forms of the disorder.

Objective: To determine if SCID phenotypes indicate host permissiveness to donor cell engraftment.

Methods: A retrospective data analysis considered whether host NK cells influenced donor T-cell engraftment, immune reconstitution, and long-term outcomes in children who had undergone nonconditioned allogeneic stem cell transplantation between 1990 and 2011 in the United Kingdom. Detailed analysis of T- and B-cell immune reconstitution and donor chimerism was compared between the NK(+) (n = 24) and NK(-) (n = 53) forms of SCID.

Results: Overall, 77 children underwent transplantation, with survival of 90% in matched sibling donor/matched family donor transplants compared with 60% when alternative donors were used. Infants with NK(-)SCID were more likely to survive than NK(+) recipients (87% vs 62%, P < .01) and had high-level donor T-cell chimerism with superior long-term recovery of CD4 T-cell immunity. Notably, 33% of children with NK(+)SCID required additional transplantation procedures compared with only 8% of children with NK(-)SCID (P < .005).

Conclusions: NK(-)SCID disorders are highly permissive for donor T-cell engraftment without preconditioning, whereas the presence of NK cells is a strong indicator that preparative conditioning is required for engraftment of T-cell precursors capable of supporting robust T-cell reconstitution.

Keywords: Severe combined immunodeficiency; adenosine deaminase deficiency; chimerism; conditioning; engraftment; natural killer cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Lineage / immunology
  • Female
  • Graft Survival / immunology*
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*
  • Male
  • Severe Combined Immunodeficiency / immunology*
  • Severe Combined Immunodeficiency / mortality
  • Severe Combined Immunodeficiency / therapy
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / metabolism
  • Transplantation Chimera
  • Transplantation Conditioning
  • Transplantation, Homologous