Background: The aim of the present study was to evaluate the role of the T-cell cytokine interferon (IFN)-gamma in mediating macrophage activation in xenograft rejection.
Methods: For this purpose, fetal porcine islet-like cell cluster (ICC) transplants were placed under the renal capsule of normal mice and mice with a homozygous targeted disruption of the IFN-gamma or the IFN-gamma receptor gene. Some of the mice were continuously infused with cyclosporine (CsA, 12.4 mg/kg body weight/day) or CsA vehicle by subcutaneously implanted osmotic pumps. Histological evaluation of the xenografts was performed 6 or 12 days after transplantation.
Results: All animals, irrespective of recipient group, readily rejected the ICC xenograft, although the rejection process was slightly delayed in mice deficient in IFN-gamma. Analysis of the infiltrating cells within the xenograft in knockout mice revealed a pattern similar to that found in control animals. Six days after transplantation, there was an abundant infiltration of macrophages (Mac-1, F4/80, and major histocompatibility complex II markers) in the ICC grafts. Quite in contrast, there was only a low to moderate number of T cells (CD3 marker) present in the ICC grafts. Treatment with CsA had no effect on the rejection process. In grafts removed from mice with a disruption of the IFN-gamma gene, occasional surviving endocrine cells, and in some cases also a few intact ICC, were found within the otherwise obliterated xenograft. Few or no surviving endocrine cells were found in the grafts obtained from the other groups of mice.
Conclusions: Thus, the present study demonstrates that macrophage activation, and subsequent destruction of an ICC xenograft, can operate in the absence of IFN-gamma in the pig-to-mouse model.