Polyclonal anti-human thymocyte globulins (ATG) have been recently shown to significantly reduce the incidence of graft versus host disease (GVHD) post allogeneic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) from both sibling and unrelated donors. Induction of regulatory T cells has been suggested as one of the possible mechanisms. The aim of current study was to further characterize the T cell populations induced by ATG treatment and to delineate the mechanisms involved in ATG-induced tolerance. Phenotypic characterization revealed a significant increase in the expression of FoxP3, GITR, CD95, PD-1 and ICOS as well as the complement inhibitory molecules CD55, CD58 and CD59 on CD4+CD25+ T cells upon ATG treatment. Addition of ATGtreated cells to autologous and allogeneic peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) stimulated with anti-CD3/anti-CD28 antibodies resulted in significant inhibition of proliferation. Moreover, T-cell activation and IFNγ secretion were reduced in the presence of ATG-induced Treg cells. The CD4+CD25+CD127-low Treg fraction sorted from ATG-treated culture demonstrated greater suppressive potency than negative fraction. Conditioned medium produced by ATG-treated but not IgG-treated cells contained TGFβ and suppressed T cell proliferation and activation in a TGFβ receptordependent manner. TGFβ receptor kinase inhibitor SB431542 interfered with the suppressive activity of ATG-primed cells, enabling partial rescue of proliferation and IFNγ secretion. Moreover, SB431542 prevented Treg phenotype induction upon ATG treatment. Altogether, our data reveal the role of TGFβ signaling in ATGmediated immunosuppression and further support the use of ATG, a potent inducer of regulatory T cells, for prevention of GVHD post HSCT and potentially other therapeutic applications.
- Immune response
- Immunology and Microbiology Section