Graft-versus-host disease (GvHD) is the major obstacle of allogeneic stem cell transplantation. Depletion of T-cells from the graft reduces the risk of GvHD, but results in a higher risk of leukemia relapse. Adoptive immunotherapy with donor lymphocyte transfusion (DLT) has been shown to control leukemia in patients after T-cell depleted allogeneic stem cell transplantation. However, GvHD may occur, if DLT is given too early after transplantation. In canine models of DLA-identical and DLA-haploidentical bone marrow transplantation, we compared different methods of T-cell depletion (TCD) and investigated the potential of DLT at different times after transplantation to induce GvHD. T-cell depletion was performed either with absorbed anti-thymocyte globuline (aATG) or with a combination of CD6-antibody and baby rabbit complement. ATG was absorbed with erythrocytes, liver, kidney and spleen for eliminating antibodies against stem cells. CD6-antibody (M-T606) and rabbit complement depleted T-cells effectively without affecting hematopoietic progenitor cells. Unlike aATG, monoclonal CD6-antibody spares natural killer (NK) cells and some CD8-positive cells. Treatment of bone marrow with aATG prevented GvHD in 9 dogs following DLA-identical transplantation. DLT on days 1 and 2 or 21 and 22 induced fatal GvHD in two dogs each. However, it did not induce GvHD when given on days 61 and 62 and later. In DLA-haploidentical bone marrow recipients, non-manipulated marrow produced fatal GvHD in all dogs (n=7), whereas marrow treated with aATG (vol:vol 1:100 and 1:200) produced fatal GvHD in 5 out of 16 dogs only. CD6-depletion prevented GvHD in 3 of 3 DLA-haploidentically transplanted dogs. DLT produced fatal GvHD in one dog each, when given on day 3, 7 or 14 after CD6-depleted haploidentical bone marrow transplantation. However, it produced fatal GvHD in only 2 of 4 dogs transfused on day 20 post grafting. Thus, DLT could be given earlier in DLA-haploidentical animals transplanted with CD6-depleted marrow than in DLA-identical animals transplanted with aATG treated marrow without producing GvHD. These findings support the hypothesis that graft-versus-host tolerance can be induced earlier with grafts not depleted of NK cells. NK cells in the graft may inactivate host dendritic cells necessary for the induction of GvHD. In grafts depleted with aATG, NK cells are depleted as well, because aATG still retains broad specificity despite extensive absorptions. This leaves host DCs unaffected. Transfused donor T-cells encountering this environment will thus be activated which results in severe GvHD. In contrast, monoclonal CD6-antibody spares NK cells, so that donor lymphocytes cannot be activated by host DCs at the time of DLT and thus won’t trigger GvHD. CD6-depletion is the preferred method if adoptive immunotherapy with DLT is planned.

Disclosures: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

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