Although T-cell CD28/CD40 costimulation blockade represents a powerful mechanism to promote immune tolerance during murine allotransplantation, it has not yet been successfully translated to clinical transplantation. We determined the impact of natural killer (NK) cells on costimulation blockade-resistant rejection of donor bone marrow. We found that NK cells represent a potent barrier to engraftment: host NK depletion led to increased donor stem cell survival, increased mixed hematopoietic chimerism and to engraftment of low doses of donor marrow (1 × 108/kg) that were otherwise rejected. To understand the mechanisms of NK alloreactivity, we employed an in vivo NK-specific cytotoxicity assay. We found that an increased proportion of target cells were killed between days 2 and 8 after cell transfer, and that NK killing of parental targets was inducible: NK cells preprimed with allotargets were more efficient at their elimination upon reexposure. Finally, both transplant and in vivo NK-killing models were used to determine the contribution of LFA-1 to NK alloreactivity. Blockade of LFA-1 led to decreased NK-mediated killing, and increased alloengraftment. These results identify NK alloreactivity as an integral component to costimulation blockade-resistant rejection, and suggest that its inhibition may represent an important target in the clinical translation of tolerance-induction transplantation.
- Natural killer