Prevention of acute GVHD using an orthogonal IL-2/IL-2Rβ system to selectively expand regulatory T cells in vivo

Blood. 2023 Mar 16;141(11):1337-1352. doi: 10.1182/blood.2022018440.


Allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (allo-HSCT) is a curative option for patients with hematological disorders and bone marrow (BM) failure syndromes. Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) remains a leading cause of morbidity posttransplant. Regulatory T cell (Treg) therapies are efficacious in ameliorating GVHD but limited by variable suppressive capacities and the need for a high therapeutic dose. Here, we sought to expand Treg in vivo by expressing an orthogonal interleukin 2 receptor β (oIL-2Rβ) that would selectively interact with oIL-2 cytokine and not wild-type (WT) IL-2. To test whether the orthogonal system would preferentially drive donor Treg expansion, we used a murine major histocompatibility complex-disparate GVHD model of lethally irradiated BALB/c mice given T cell-depleted BM from C57BL/6 (B6) mice alone or together with B6Foxp3+GFP+ Treg or oIL-2Rβ-transduced Treg at low cell numbers that typically do not control GVHD with WT Treg. On day 2, B6 activated T cells (Tcons) were injected to induce GVHD. Recipients were treated with phosphate-buffered saline (PBS) or oIL-2 daily for 14 days, then 3 times weekly for an additional 14 days. Mice treated with oIL-2Rβ Treg and oIL-2 compared with those treated with PBS had enhanced GVHD survival, in vivo selective expansion of Tregs, and greater suppression of Tcon expansion in secondary lymphoid organs and intestines. Importantly, oIL-2Rβ Treg maintained graft-versus-tumor (GVT) responses in 2 distinct tumor models (A20 and MLL-AF9). These data demonstrate a novel approach to enhance the efficacy of Treg therapy in allo-HSCT using an oIL-2/oIL-2Rβ system that allows for selective in vivo expansion of Treg leading to GVHD protection and GVT maintenance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Marrow Transplantation
  • Cytokines
  • Graft vs Host Disease* / prevention & control
  • Interleukin-2 / pharmacology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neoplasms*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory


  • Interleukin-2
  • Cytokines