Before and after bone marrow transplantation (BMT) for hematologic malignancies, peripheral blood mononuclear cells from 10 patients were obtained. The relative and absolute numbers of CD3+ T-cell receptor gamma delta+ (TCR gamma delta+) cells, as defined by the reaction of monoclonal antibodies (MoAbs) directed against CD3 and the TCR gamma delta (anti-TCR gamma delta-1), were determined. Before transplantation, eight of nine patients tested had less than 10% CD3+TCR gamma delta+ cells. Consistent increased numbers of gamma delta cells up to eightfold the pretransplant level can be seen in four of nine patients tested within the first 4 months after BMT. The large majority of early posttransplant gamma delta and alpha beta T cells express the CD45RO antigen, which is usually expressed on “memory” cells only. The V-region usage of the TCR gamma delta+ T cells was analyzed using fresh mononuclear cells and MoAbs against known V gamma and V delta regions. For more detailed analysis, CD3+TCR gamma delta+ cells were sorted and cultured in bulk and cloned. Using fresh cells and bulk cultures, mainly V gamma 9+V delta 1-V delta 2+ cells were found during engraftment. Only after 6 weeks post-BMT, V gamma 9-V delta 1+V delta 2- cells appear. Analysis of the V gamma and V delta usage at the clonal level confirmed the observation that early after BMT only V gamma 9+V delta 2+ cells are present, whereas gamma delta T- cell clones expressing other gamma delta TCR phenotypes can only be detected 4 to 6 weeks post-BMT. The predominance of V gamma 9+ cells during early engraftment could be explained by several mechanisms: (A) sequential rearrangements during T-cell development, leading to an early wave of V gamma 9+ cells, or (B) selective outgrowth of preexisting V gamma 9+V delta 2+CD45RO+ TCR gamma delta cells in the bone marrow graft, possibly as a result of antigen driven expansion due to exposure to environmental antigens.

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