The purpose of this study was to determine whether the administration of high doses of an anti-T-cell receptor (TCR) monoclonal antibody (H57– 597) to donor animals could induce a state of T-cell nonresponsiveness and prevent the development of graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) in murine recipients of major histocompatibility complex (MHC)-matched (B10.BR[H-2k] --> AKR/J[H-2k]) and mismatched (B10.BR[H-2k] --> DBA/2[H- 2d]) marrow grafts. Transplantation of H57–597-treated B10.BR T cells into irradiated AKR or DBA mice resulted in protection from GVHD, which was otherwise lethal in transplanted recipients receiving untreated T cells. The administration of H57–597-treated T cells did not compromise alloengraftment in either strain combination and was found to accelerate donor T-cell reconstitution in recipients of MHC-matched marrow grafts. Optimal protection for GVHD was dependent on the duration of antibody exposure in donor mice. T cells from donor exposed to antibody for only 1 day caused lethal GVHD, whereas exposure for at least 4 days was necessary to abrogate graft-versus-host reactivity. The ability of antibody treatment to protect against the development of GVHD could not be ascribed to the antibody-induced production of Th2 cytokines, the induction of a T- or non-T-suppressor cell population, or the preferential depletion of CD4+ T cells by H57–597. Donor T cells exposed to H57–597 antibody were detectable in recipients for up to 5 weeks after transplantation, indicating that these cells were not eliminated in the host immediately after bone marrow transplantation and contributed to enhanced donor T-cell reconstitution. Moreover, in B10.BR --> DBA chimeras that did not have any clinical evidence of GVHD, potentially MIs-reactive donor-derived Vbeta6+ T cells were present in the spleens of recipients at comparable numbers to normal mice but appeared functionally nonresponsive in vivo. These data strongly suggested that protection from GVHD was due to the fact that antibody treatment resulted in a state of prolonged T-cell anergy that persisted despite the presence of potential costimulatory signals in the recipient. This observation is of potential clinical significance in that it shows that the prevention of GVHD can be accomplished without posttransplantation immunosuppression or the need for in vitro or in vivo T-cell depletion.

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