Granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) has recently emerged as an important pathogenic cytokine in acute graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), but the nature of the T-cell lineages secreting the cytokine and the mechanisms of action are less clear. Here we used interleukin 17A-fate reporter systems with transcriptional analysis and assays of alloantigen presentation to interrogate the origins of GM-CSF-secreting T cells and the effects of the cytokine on antigen-presenting cell (APC) function after experimental allogeneic stem cell transplantation (SCT). We demonstrated that although GM-CSF-secreting Th17 and non-Th17 cells expanded in the colon over time after SCT, the Th17 lineage expanded to represent 10% to 20% of the GM-CSF secreting T cells at this site by 4 weeks. Donor T-cell-derived GM-CSF expanded alloantigen-presenting donor dendritic cells (DCs) in the colon and lymph nodes. In the mesenteric lymph nodes, GM-CSF-dependent DCs primed donor T cells and amplified acute GVHD in the colon. We thus describe a feed-forward cascade whereby GM-CSF-secreting donor T cells accumulate and drive alloantigen presentation in the colon to amplify GVHD severity. GM-CSF inhibition may be a tractable clinical intervention to limit donor alloantigen presentation and GVHD in the lower gastrointestinal tract.
© 2019 by The American Society of Hematology.