Donor T lymphocyte transfer with hematopoietic stem cells suppresses residual tumor growth (graft-versus-tumor [GVT]) in cancer patients undergoing bone marrow transplantation (BMT). However, donor T cell reactivity to host organs causes severe and potentially lethal inflammation called graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). High-dose steroids or other immunosuppressive drugs are used to treat GVHD that have limited ability to control the inflammation while incurring long-term toxicity. Novel strategies are needed to modulate GVHD, preserve GVT, and improve the outcome of BMT. Regulatory T cells (Tregs) control alloantigen-sensitized inflammation of GVHD, sustain GVT, and prevent mortality in BMT. Helminths colonizing the alimentary tract dramatically increase the Treg activity, thereby modulating intestinal or systemic inflammatory responses. These observations led us to hypothesize that helminths can regulate GVHD and maintain GVT in mice. Acute GVHD was induced in helminth (Heligmosomoides polygyrus)-infected or uninfected BALB/c recipients of C57BL/6 donor grafts. Helminth infection suppressed donor T cell inflammatory cytokine generation and reduced GVHD-related mortality, but maintained GVT. H. polygyrus colonization promoted the survival of TGF-β-generating recipient Tregs after a conditioning regimen with total body irradiation and led to a TGF-β-dependent in vivo expansion/maturation of donor Tregs after BMT. Helminths did not control GVHD when T cells unresponsive to TGF-β-mediated immune regulation were used as donor T lymphocytes. These results suggest that helminths suppress acute GVHD using Tregs and TGF-β-dependent pathways in mice. Helminthic regulation of GVHD and GVT through intestinal immune conditioning may improve the outcome of BMT.
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Copyright © 2015 by The American Association of Immunologists, Inc.