T cell reactivity to minor histocompatibility (mH) antigens is responsible for rejection of HLA-matched allografts, limiting the effectiveness of transplantation for the treatment of end-stage organ failure. The deadbox gene Dby is located on the Y chromosome and encodes an mH antigen that prompts rejection of male tissues by female mice. Establishing a network of regulatory T (Treg) cells that is capable of coercing naive cells to adopt a tolerant phenotype offers an attractive strategy for immune intervention in such deleterious immune responses. While various approaches have successfully induced a dominant form of transplantation tolerance, they share the propensity to provoke chronic, incomplete activation of T cells. By identifying the T cell receptor (TCR) contact sites of the dominant epitope of the Dby gene product, we have designed an altered peptide ligand (APL) that delivers incomplete signals to naive T cells from A1 ∞ RAG1–/– mice that are transgenic for a complementary TCR. Administration of this APL to female transgenic mice polarizes T cells toward a regulatory phenotype, securing a form of dominant tolerance to male skin grafts that is capable of resisting rejection by naive lymphocytes. Our results demonstrate that incomplete signaling through the TCR may establish a network of Treg cells that may be harnessed in the service of transplantation tolerance.
Tse-Ching Chen, Herman Waldmann, Paul J. Fairchild