The nonsuppurrative destructive cholangitis lesions in the B10.D2 (donor) into BALB/c (host) mouse graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) model are dependent on CD4 T cells that use a T cell receptor-β chain variable region (Vβ) repertoire, which is heavily biased toward Vβ2 and Vβ3 usage. We hypothesized that liver Vβ2+ and Vβ3+ CD4 T cells originate from donor mice and recognize BALB/c minor histocompatibility alloantigens and BALB/c endogenous retroviral superantigen-6, respectively. To test this hypothesis, we determined the donor:host chimera status of infiltrating liver lymphocytes and the clonal states of liver Vβ2+ and liver Vβ3+ CD4 cells isolated from GVHD mice. A limited donor TCR Vβ repertoire composed of Vβ1+, 2+, 3+, 4+, 6+, and 8+ cells infiltrated the livers of GVHD mice on day 3. Consistent with a response to immunodominant host minor histocompatibility antigens, we detected oligoclonal liver Vβ2+ T cells in 40% of GVHD mice studied on day 3 and in 100% of GVHD mice studied on day 14. Typical of superantigen stimulation, extremely polyclonal liver Vβ3+ T cells were detected in 100% of GVHD mice studied on day 3 and 40% of GVHD mice studied on day 14. Yet, the liver Vβ3+ T cells in 60% of the day 14 GVHD mice were oligoclonal, pointing to a response to minor histocompatibility antigens.
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