Analysis of maternal microchimerism in rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) using real-time quantitative PCR amplification of MHC polymorphisms
Although pregnancy-associated microchimerism is known to exist in humans, its clinical significance remains unclear. Fetal microchimerism has been documented in rhesus monkeys, but the trafficking and persistence of maternal cells in the monkey fetus and infant have not been fully explored. To investigate the frequency of maternal microchimerism in the rhesus monkey (Macaca mulatta), a real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) strategy was developed and validated to target polymorphic major histocompatibility complex (MHC) gene sequences. Informative PCR assays were identified for 19 of 25 dams and their respective offspring. Analyses were performed on tissues (thymus, liver, spleen, lymph nodes, and bone marrow) and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) collected prenatally and postnatally in a subset of animals. Seven of 19 monkeys had detectable maternal microchimerism in at least one compartment (range: 0.001–1.9% chimeric cells). In tissues, maternal microchimerism was found in 2 of 7 fetuses and 3 of 12 juveniles (1–1.5 years of age), and most of the animals that were positive had microchimeric cells in more than one tissue. Maternal microchimerism was detected in PBMCs from all (4 of 4) fetuses. These observations suggest that maternal microchimerism occurs in the rhesus monkey fetus and can be detected in tissues in a subset of offspring after birth.
Trogocytosis as a mechanistic link between chimerism and prenatal tolerance
In utero hematopoietic cellular transplantation (IUHCT) holds great promise for the treatment of congenital diseases of cellular dysfunction such as sickle cell disease, immunodeficiency disorders and inherited metabolic disorders. However, repeated failures in clinical cases of IUHCT that do not involve an immunodeficiency disease force a closer examination of the fetal immune system. While the mechanisms regulating T cell tolerance have been previously studied, the educational mechanisms leading to NK cell tolerance in prenatal chimeras remain unknown. As a low level of donor cells (1.8%) is required to induce and maintain this tolerance, it is likely that these mechanisms employ indirect host-donor interaction. This report examines donor-to-host MHC transfer (trogocytosis) as an intrinsic mechanism regulating the development and maintenance of NK cell tolerance in prenatal chimeras. The findings demonstrate that phenotypically tolerant host NK cells express low levels of transferred donor MHC antigens during development and later as mature cytotoxic lymphocytes. Further study is needed to understand how the cis-recognition of transferred donor MHC ligand influences the selection and maintenance of tolerant NK cells in prenatal chimeras.
A feasibility study on the prediction of acute graft-vs.-host disease before hematopoietic stem cell transplantation based on fetomaternal tolerance
The contact between the immune systems of mother and child during pregnancy affects an immune response of the child against noninherited maternal antigens (NIMA) and the mother against inherited paternal antigens (IPA). However, the immunologic effects of developmental exposure to NIMA or IPA are heterogeneous, and can be either tolerogenic or immunogenic. Although we have reported that prediction of acute graft-vs.-host disease (GVHD) is feasible in a murine model, there has been no literature in human. We devised a novel method for predicting a tolerogenic effect by using mixed lymphocyte reaction combined with enzyme-linked immunospot (MLR-ELISPOT) assay. The assay can evaluate reactivity of interferon-γ spot-forming cells of donor against the recipient. Although we have shown only two examples of mother to child reactivity so far, our preliminary results suggest that this pre-screened assay may be used to predict acute GVHD. The clinical trial is in progress to evaluate MLR-ELISPOT assay as a predicting measure of acute GVHD in haploidentical transplantation from NIMA or IPA-mismatched family donor.
Detection and quantification of chimerism by droplet digital PCR
Accurate quantification of chimerism and microchimerism is proving to be increasingly valuable for hematopoietic cell transplantation as well as non-transplant conditions. However, methods that are available to quantify low-level chimerism lack accuracy. Therefore, we developed and validated a method for quantifying chimerism based on digital PCR technology. We demonstrate accurate quantification that far exceeds what is possible with analog qPCR down to 0.01% with the potential to go even lower. Also, this method is inherently more informative than qPCR. We expect the advantages of digital PCR will make it the preferred method for chimerism analysis.
Five-year clinical effects of donor bone marrow cells infusions in kidney allograft recipients: Improved graft function and higher graft survival
Augmentation of microchimerism in solid organ transplant recipients by donor bone marrow cells (DBMC) infusion may promote immune hyporesponsiveness and consequently improve long-term allograft survival. Between March 2005 and July 2007, outcomes for 20 living unrelated donor (LURD) primary kidney recipients with concurrent DBMC infusion (an average of 2.19 ± 1.13 x 109 donor cells consisting of 2.66 ± 1.70 x 107 CD34+ cells) were prospectively compared with 20 non-infused control allograft recipients given similar conventional immunosuppressive regimens. With five years of clinical follow up, a total of 11 cases experienced rejection episodes (3 DBMI patients vs. 8 controls, p = 0.15). One DBMC-infused patient experienced chronic rejection vs. two episodes (1 biopsy-confirmed) in the control patients. Actuarial and death-censored 5-y graft survival was significantly higher in infused patients compared with controls (p = 0.01 and p = 0.03, respectively). Long-term graft survival was significantly associated with pre-transplant anti-HLA antibodies (p = 0.01), slightly with peripheral microchimerism (p = 0.09) and CD4+CD25+FoxP3+ T cells (p = 0.09). Immunosuppressant dosing was lower in infused patients than controls, particularly for mycophenolate mofetil (p = 0.001). The current findings as well as our previous reports on these patients indicates clinical improvement in long-term graft survival of renal transplant patients resulting from low-dose DBMC infusion given without induction therapy.
Safety of treatment with DLA-identical or unrelated mesenchymal stromal cells in DLA-identical canine bone marrow transplantation
Background: Although in vitro and in vivo experiments have suggested that mesenchymal stromal cells (MSC) may have important immunomodulatory functions in allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT), results from clinical studies have been inconsistent. In the current study we investigate the safety of dog leukocyte antigen (DLA) identical or third party unrelated MSC in DLA-identical HCT. Results: There were no differences between treatment groups in depth of granulocyte or platelet nadirs, time to granulocyte or platelet engraftment, rate of acute GVHD or rejection. All dogs tolerated the MSC infusion well, although 2 dogs treated with unrelated MSC were euthanized on day 9 due to complications unrelated to the MSC infusion. While no formation of ectopic tissue was observed, GFP positive signals in bone marrow, spleen or liver were detected at time of necropsy in 75% and 50% of dogs treated with DLA-identical or unrelated MSC, respectively. Discussion: Treatment with DLA-identical or unrelated MSC in high dose DLA-identical HCT is safe, and provides a large animal HCT model in which to investigate immunological mechanisms and optimal treatment strategies for future human trials. Methods: Fourteen dogs were treated with 920 cGy total body irradiation (TBI) followed by transplantation of marrow from DLA-identical littermates and immunosuppression with cyclosporine. Prior to infusion of marrow, dogs received infusions of DLA-identical MSC from the marrow donor (n = 4), unrelated MSC (n = 4), or culture medium (n = 6), within 1 h of TBI. MSC obtained from relevant donors were ex-vivo expanded and transduced with GFP-retrovirus before infusion.