Epithelial cytoprotection sustains ectopic expression of tissue-restricted antigens in the thymus during murine acute GVHD.
Dertschnig S., Nusspaumer G., Ivanek R., Hauri-Hohl MM., Holländer GA., Krenger W.
Development of acute graft-versus-host disease (aGVHD) predisposes to chronic GVHD with autoimmune manifestations. A characteristic of experimental aGVHD is the de novo generation of autoreactive T cells. Central tolerance is dependent on the intrathymic expression of tissue-restricted peripheral self-antigens (TRA), which is in mature medullary thymic epithelial cells (mTEC(high)) partly controlled by the autoimmune regulator (Aire). Because TECs are targets of donor T-cell alloimmunity, we tested whether murine aGVHD interfered with the capacity of recipient Aire(+)mTEC(high) to sustain TRA diversity. We report that aGVHD weakens the platform for central tolerance induction because individual TRAs are purged from the total repertoire secondary to a decline in the Aire(+)mTEC(high) cell pool. Peritransplant administration of an epithelial cytoprotective agent, fibroblast growth factor-7, maintained a stable pool of Aire(+)mTEC(high), with an improved TRA transcriptome despite aGVHD. Taken together, our data provide a mechanism for how autoimmunity may develop in the context of antecedent alloimmunity.