Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) remains a major complication after allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, a widely used therapy for hematologic malignancies and blood disorders. Here, we report an unexpected role of cytokine leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF) in protecting against GVHD development. Administrating recombinant LIF protein (rLIF) protects mice from GVHD-induced tissue damage and lethality without compromising the graft-versus-leukemia activity, which is crucial to prevent tumor relapse. We found that rLIF decreases the infiltration and activation of donor immune cells and protects intestinal stem cells to ameliorate GVHD. Mechanistically, rLIF downregulates IL-12–p40 expression in recipient dendritic cells after irradiation through activating STAT1 signaling, which results in decreased major histocompatibility complex II levels on intestinal epithelial cells and decreased donor T-cell activation and infiltration. This study reveals a previously unidentified protective role of LIF for GVHD-induced tissue pathology and provides a potential effective therapeutic strategy to limit tissue pathology without compromising antileukemic efficacy.
LIF protects mice against GVHD by reducing the infiltration and activation of donor immune cells and protecting intestinal stem cells.
LIF decreases IL-12 levels in recipient dendritic cells and MHC-II levels on intestinal epithelia to reduce T-cell activation and GVHD-induced damage.
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