Activation of host T cells that mediate allograft rejection is a 2-step process. The first occurs in secondary lymphoid organs where T cells encounter alloantigens presented by host DCs and differentiate to effectors. Antigen presentation at these sites occurs principally via transfer of intact, donor MHC-peptide complexes from graft cells to host DCs (cross-dressing) or by uptake and processing of donor antigens into allopeptides bound to self-MHC molecules (indirect presentation). The second step takes place in the graft, where effector T cells reengage with host DCs before causing rejection. How host DCs present alloantigens to T cells in the graft is not known. Using mouse islet and kidney transplantation models, imaging cytometry, and 2-photon intravital microscopy, we demonstrate extensive cross-dressing of intragraft host DCs with donor MHC-peptide complexes that occurred early after transplantation, whereas host DCs presenting donor antigen via the indirect pathway were rare. Cross-dressed DCs stably engaged TCR-transgenic effector CD8+ T cells that recognized donor antigen and were sufficient for sustaining acute rejection. In the chronic kidney rejection model, cross-dressing declined over time but was still conspicuous 8 weeks after transplantation. We conclude that cross-dressing of host DCs with donor MHC molecules is a major antigen presentation pathway driving effector T cell responses within allografts.


Andrew D. Hughes, Daqiang Zhao, Hehua Dai, Khodor I. Abou-Daya, Roger Tieu, Rayan Rammal, Amanda L. Williams, Douglas P. Landsittel, Warren D. Shlomchik, Adrian E. Morelli, Martin H. Oberbarnscheidt, Fadi G. Lakkis


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