Administration of posttransplant cyclophosphamide (PTCy) has significantly expanded the number of patients undergoing HLA-haploidentical hematopoietic cell transplantation (haplo-HCT). To examine immune reconstitution in these patients, we monitored T- and natural killer (NK)-cell recovery in 60 patients receiving bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) grafts after haplo-HCT with PTCy and 35 patients receiving HLA-matched donor PBSC grafts with standard graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) prophylaxis. Compared with HLA-matched recipients, early T-cell recovery was delayed in haplo-HCT patients and skewed toward effector memory T cells with markedly reduced naive T cells. We found higher regulatory T (Treg)-cell/conventional T (Tcon)-cell ratios early after HCT and increased PD-1 expression on memory T cells. Within the haplo-HCT, patients who did not develop chronic GVHD (cGVHD) had higher PD-1 expression on central and effector memory CD4+ Treg cells at 1 month after transplant. These findings suggest an immunologic milieu that promotes immune tolerance in haplo-HCT patients. NK cells were decreased early after haplo-HCT with preferential expansion of immature CD56brightCD16- NK cells compared with matched donor transplants. One month after transplant, mass cytometry revealed enrichment of immature NK-cell metaclusters with high NKG2A, low CD57, and low killer-cell immunoglobulin-like receptor expression after haplo-HCT, which partially recovered 3 months post-HCT. At 2 months, immature NK cells from both groups were functionally impaired, but interleukin-15 priming corrected these defects in vitro. Increased immature/mature NK-cell ratios were associated with cytomegalovirus reactivation and increased incidence of cGVHD after haplo-HCT. These homeostatic imbalances in T- and NK-cell reconstitution after haplo-HCT reveal opportunities for early immune-based interventions to optimize clinical outcomes.
© 2021 by The American Society of Hematology.