Combining theoretical and experimental techniques to study murine heart transplant rejection

Julia C. Arciero, Andrew Maturo, Anirudh Arun, Byoung Chol Oh, Gerald Brandacher, Giorgio Raimondi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The quality of life of organ transplant recipients is compromised by complications associated with life-long immunosuppression, such as hypertension, diabetes, opportunistic infections, and cancer. Moreover, the absence of established tolerance to the transplanted tissues causes limited long-term graft survival rates. Thus, there is a great medical need to understand the complex immune system interactions that lead to transplant rejection so that novel and effective strategies of intervention that redirect the system toward transplant acceptance (while preserving overall immune competence) can be identified. This study implements a systems biology approach in which an experimentally based mathematical model is used to predict how alterations in the immune response influence the rejection of mouse heart transplants. Five stages of conventional mouse heart transplantation are modeled using a system of 13 ordinary differential equations that tracks populations of both innate and adaptive immunity as well as proxies for pro- and anti-inflammatory factors within the graft and a representative draining lymph node. The model correctly reproduces known experimental outcomes, such as indefinite survival of the graft in the absence of CD4+ T cells and quick rejection in the absence of CD8+ T cells. The model predicts that decreasing the translocation rate of effector cells from the lymph node to the graft delays transplant rejection. Increasing the starting number of quiescent regulatory T cells in the model yields a significant but somewhat limited protective effect on graft survival. Surprisingly, the model shows that a delayed appearance of alloreactive T cells has an impact on graft survival that does not correlate linearly with the time delay. This computational model represents one of the first comprehensive approaches toward simulating the many interacting components of the immune system. Despite some limitations, the model provides important suggestions of experimental investigations that could improve the understanding of rejection. Overall, the systems biology approach used here is a first step in predicting treatments and interventions that can induce transplant tolerance while preserving the capacity of the immune system to protect against legitimate pathogens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number448
JournalFrontiers in immunology
Issue numberNOV
StatePublished - Nov 7 2016


  • Antigen-presenting cells
  • Cytokines
  • Immune response
  • Mathematical model
  • Rejection
  • T cells
  • Transplant

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


Dive into the research topics of 'Combining theoretical and experimental techniques to study murine heart transplant rejection'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this