The role of tissue adaptation and graft size in immune tolerance

Ehud Hauben, Maria Grazia Roncarolo, Elena Draghici, Uri Nevo*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Understanding how immune tolerance is induced and maintained is critical for our approach to immune-related diseases. Ecoimmunity is a new theory that views the immune system-tissue interaction as a co-adapting predator-prey system. Ecoimmunity suggests that tissues adapt to the selective immune pressure during ontogeny and throughout life. Therefore, immune tolerance towards 'self' represents a symmetric balance between the propensity of the immune system to prey on 'self' cells, and the tissue's specific capacity to undergo phenotypic adaptations in order to avoid destructive immune interaction. According to this theory, we hypothesized that tissues of adult immune-deficient mice, which are not exposed to selective immune pressure, will not withstand immune activity and will therefore display higher susceptibility to graft rejection. To test this prediction, C57Bl/6 wild type female mice were rendered diabetic by streptozotocin and transplanted with syngeneic pancreatic islets isolated from either immune-deficient C57Bl/6 SCID or wild type females. Remarkably, recipients of islet grafts from immune-deficient syngeneic donors displayed significantly impaired glucose homeostasis compared to mice transplanted with islets of wild type donors (p < 0.001, two way repeated measures ANOVA). The severity of this impairment was correlated with islet graft size, suggesting a capacity of transplanted islets to gradually acquire a tolerogenic phenotype. These findings support the view of graft survival that is based on 'natural selection' of tissue cells. In addition, we describe a new experimental system for molecular characterization of self-tolerance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)122-125
Number of pages4
JournalTransplant Immunology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Diabetes
  • Ecoimmunity
  • Graft size
  • Immune tolerance
  • Immune-deficient mice
  • Islet transplantation
  • Tissue adaptation


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