Prolongation of allograft survival by passenger donor regulatory T cells

Am J Transplant. 2019 May;19(5):1371-1379. doi: 10.1111/ajt.15212. Epub 2019 Feb 5.


Tissue resident lymphocytes are present within many organs, and are presumably transferred at transplantation, but their impact on host immunity is unclear. Here, we examine whether transferred donor natural regulatory CD4 T cells (nT-regs) inhibit host alloimmunity and prolong allograft survival. Transfer of donor-strain lymphocytes was first assessed by identifying circulating donor-derived CD4 T cells in 21 consecutive human lung transplant recipients, with 3 patterns of chimerism apparent: transient, intermediate, and persistent (detectable for up to 6 weeks, 6 months, and beyond 1 year, respectively). The potential for transfer of donor nT-regs was then confirmed by analysis of leukocyte filters recovered from ex vivo normothermic perfusion circuits of human kidneys retrieved for transplantation. Finally, in a murine model of cardiac allograft vasculopathy, depletion of donor CD4 nT-regs before organ recovery resulted in markedly accelerated heart allograft rejection and augmented host effector antibody responses. Conversely, adoptive transfer or purified donor-strain nT-regs inhibited host humoral immunity and prolonged allograft survival, and more effectively so than following administration of recipient nT-regs. In summary, following transplantation, passenger donor-strain nT-regs can inhibit host adaptive immune responses and prolong allograft survival. Isolated donor-derived nT-regs may hold potential as a cellular therapy to improve transplant outcomes.

Keywords: T cell biology; basic (laboratory) research/science; cellular biology; immune regulation; immunobiology; lymphocyte biology; organ transplantation in general; tolerance: experimental; tolerance: mechanisms; translational research/science.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adoptive Transfer
  • Allografts
  • Animals
  • Cell Lineage
  • Graft Rejection / immunology*
  • Graft Survival / immunology*
  • Heart Transplantation
  • Humans
  • Immune System
  • Immunity, Humoral
  • Isoantibodies / immunology
  • Kidney Transplantation*
  • Lung Transplantation*
  • Mice
  • Organ Preservation
  • Perfusion
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology*
  • Tissue Donors
  • Transplantation, Homologous
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Isoantibodies