Interrupting T cell costimulatory signals as a strategy to control undesired immune responses, such as occur in autoimmunity or transplantation, has the potential to alleviate many of the unwanted side effects associated with current immunosuppressive therapies. Belatacept, a high-affinity version of CTLA4-Ig that blocks ligand ligation to CD28, has been approved for use in kidney transplant recipients. Despite the long-term benefits associated with its use, such as improved renal function and lower cardiovascular risk, a subset of patients treated with belatacept experience elevated rates of acute T cell–mediated rejection, tempering enthusiasm for its use. Here we demonstrate that costimulation-independent T cell alloreactivity relies on signaling through CD122, the shared IL-2 and IL-15 receptor β-chain. Combined costimulatory and CD122 blockade improved survival of transplanted tissue in mice and nonhuman primates by controlling proliferation and effector function of CD8+ T cells. The high-affinity IL-2 receptor was dispensable for memory CD8+ T cell responses, whereas signaling through CD122 as a component of the high-affinity IL-15 receptor was critical for costimulation-independent memory CD8+ T cell recall, distinguishing specific roles for IL-2 and IL-15 in T cell activation. These studies outline a novel approach for clinical optimization of costimulatory blockade strategies in transplantation by targeting CD122.
David V. Mathews, Ying Dong, Laura B. Higginbotham, Steven C. Kim, Cynthia P. Breeden, Elizabeth A. Stobert, Joseph Jenkins, J. Yun Tso, Christian P. Larsen, Andrew B. Adams