Despite the increasing use of humanized mouse models to study new approaches of graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) prevention, the pathogenesis of xenogeneic GVHD (xGVHD) in these models remains misunderstood. The aim of this study is to describe this pathogenesis in NOD/LtSz-PrkdcscidIL2rγtm1Wjl (NSG) mice infused with human PBMCs and to assess the impact of the expression of HLA-A0201 by NSG mice cells (NSG-HLA-A2/HHD mice) on xGVHD and graft-versus-leukemia (GvL) effects, by taking advantage of next-generation technologies. We found that T cells recovered from NSG mice after transplantation had upregulated expression of genes involved in cell proliferation, as well as in TCR, co-stimulatory, IL-2/STAT5, mTOR and Aurora kinase A pathways. T cells had mainly an effector memory or an effector phenotype and exhibited a Th1/Tc1-skewed differentiation. TCRβ repertoire diversity was markedly lower both in the spleen and lungs (a xGVHD target organ) than at infusion. There was no correlation between the frequencies of specific clonotypes at baseline and in transplanted mice. Finally, expression of HLA-A0201 by NSG mice led to more severe xGVHD and enhanced GvL effects toward HLA-A2+ leukemic cells. Altogether our data demonstrate that the pathogenesis of xGVHD shares important features with human GVHD and that NSG-HLA-A2/HHD mice could serve as better model to study GVHD and GvL effects.
Keywords: GVHD; NSG; NSG-HLA-A2/HHD; RNA sequencing; TCR receptor; TCRβ repertoire; graft-versus-leukemia; xenogeneic.