Protection from lethal murine graft-versus-host disease without compromise of alloengraftment using transgenic donor T cells expressing a thymidine kinase suicide gene

W. R. Drobyski, H. C. Morse, W. H. Burns, J. T. Casper, G. Sandford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Donor T cells play a pivotal role in facilitating alloengraftment but also cause graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). Ex vivo T-cell depletion (TCD) of donor marrow is the most effective strategy for reducing GVHD but can compromise engraftment. This study examined an approach whereby donor T cells are selectively eliminated in vivo after transplantation using transgenic mice in which a thymidine kinase (TK) suicide gene is targeted to the T cell using a CD3 promoter/enhancer construct. Lethally irradiated B10.BR mice transplanted with major histocompatibility complex (MHC)-incompatible TCD C57BL/6 (B6) bone marrow (BM) plus TK+ T cells were protected from GVHD after treatment with ganciclovir (GCV) in a schedule-dependent fashion. To examine the effect of GCV treatment on alloengraftment, sublethally irradiated AKR mice underwent transplantation with TCD B6 BM plus limiting numbers (5 × 105) of B6 TK+ T cells. Animals treated with GCV had comparable donor engraftment but significantly reduced GVHD when compared with untreated mice. These mice also had a significantly increased number of donor splenic T cells when assessed 4 weeks after bone marrow transplantation. Thus, the administration of GCV did not render recipients T-cell deficient, but rather enhanced lymphocyte recovery. Adoptive transfer of spleen cells from GCV-treated chimeric mice into secondary AKR recipients failed to cause GVHD indicating that donor T cells were tolerant of recipient alloantigens. These studies demonstrate that administration of TK gene-modified donor T cells can be used as an approach to mitigate GVHD without compromising alloengraftment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2506-2513
Number of pages8
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 15 2001


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Immunology
  • Hematology
  • Cell Biology

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