Distinct T cell populations distinguish chronic myeloid leukaemia cells from lymphocytes in the same individual: a model for separating GVHD from GVL reactions

Bone Marrow Transplant. 1994 Oct;14(4):517-24.


Donor lymphocyte responses to minor histocompatibility antigen (mHA) differences are involved in allo-responses between HLA matched pairs causing GVHD and graft-versus-leukaemia (GVL). Since some mHA are tissue-restricted, GVHD and GVL responses may be separable. We studied donor lymphocyte responses to patients with CML in a series of 10 HLA-matched sibling and 10 unrelated donor-recipient pairs comparing proliferation to recipient PHA blasts and CML cells and attempting to selectively deplete responses to PHA blasts in vitro. Responses in counts per min (c.p.m) to CML cells and PHA blasts were, respectively, 2809 +/- 2205 (SD) and 7376 +/- 1877 in related and 12,107 +/- 7191 and 26,136 +/- 22,479 in unrelated pairs. Autologous responses to PHA blasts were significantly lower (mean 779 +/- 735) (p < 0.001). Results correlated with clinical outcome: higher responses to recipient cells correlated with transplant-related death (p = 0.02 for CML and p = 0.06 for PHA blasts). Higher responses to CML correlated with GVHD grade > or = II (p = 0.025). Donor lymphocytes exposed to recipient PHA blasts for 5 days and treated with a ricin-conjugated anti-CD25 antibody retained over 75% of their response to CML but < 10% to PHA blasts. Similarly, depletion of response to CML but not to PHA blasts occurred when CML was the primary challenge. These results indicate that distinct populations of donor T cells respond to recipient leukaemic and non-leukaemic cells, and provide the basis for a clinically applicable technique to selectively deplete donor GVHD reacting cells while conserving GVL.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Graft vs Host Disease / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Myelogenous, Chronic, BCR-ABL Positive / immunology*
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Lymphocyte Culture Test, Mixed
  • Lymphocyte Depletion
  • Receptors, Interleukin-2 / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*


  • Receptors, Interleukin-2