Molecular intermediates in T-cell activation pathways are crucial targets for the therapy and prevention of graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) following allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (allo-HCT). We recently identified an essential role for cyclin-dependent kinase 5 (Cdk5) in T-cell activation and effector function, but the contribution of Cdk5 activity to the development of GVHD has not been explored. Using an established, preclinical, murine, GVHD model, we reveal that Cdk5 activity is increased in key target organs early after allo-HCT. We then generated chimeric mice (Cdk51/1C or Cdk52/2C) using hematopoietic progenitors from either embryonic day 16.5 Cdk51/1 or Cdk52/2 embryos to enable analyses of the role of Cdk5 in GVHD, as germ line Cdk5 gene deletion is embryonically lethal. The immunophenotype of adult Cdk52/2C mice is identical to control Cdk51/1C mice. However, transplantation of donor Cdk52/2C bone marrow and T cells dramatically reduced the severity of systemic and target organ GVHD. This phenotype is attributed to decreased T-cell migration to secondary lymphoid organs (SLOs), reduced in vivo proliferation within these organs, and fewer cytokine-producing donor T cells during GVHD development. Moreover, these defects in Cdk52/2 T-cell function are associated with altered CCR7 signaling following ligation by CCL19, a receptor:ligand interaction critical for T-cell migration into SLOs. Although Cdk5 activity in donor T cells contributed to graft-versus-tumor effects, pharmacologic inhibition of Cdk5 preserved leukemia-free survival. Collectively, our data implicate Cdk5 in allogeneic T-cell responses after HCT and as an important new target for therapeutic intervention.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology