Administration of an agonistic anti-CD28 mAb paradoxically inhibits donor T cell expansion and prevents graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) in mice. Here we examined the mechanism of anti-CD28–mediated immunosuppression and found that anti-CD28 mAb activated, rather than blocked, CD28-mediated signaling in vivo. Anti-CD28 treatment prevented GVHD by selectively depleting alloantigen-activated donor T cells through apoptosis but spared the T cells that did not recognize recipient alloantigens. Overexpression of Bcl-xL did not protect T cells from depletion and did not affect GVHD prevention after anti-CD28 treatment. Depletion of activated T cells mediated through CD28 did not depend on the expression of death receptors Fas and TNF receptors type I and II, but both the depletion of activated T cells and the suppressive effect of anti-CD28 mAb on GVHD lethality required donor-derived IFN-γ production. This study demonstrates that agonistic Ab’s specific for the CD28 costimulatory molecule may be used as novel therapeutic agents to abrogate pathogenic T cell responses by selective depletion of activated T cells.
Xue-Zhong Yu, Michael H. Albert, Paul J. Martin, Claudio Anasetti