Background. Immunologic rejection is a major barrier to successful long-term outcomes in clinical transplantation. The importance of B lymphocytes-and their secretory products, alloantibodies-in the pathogenesis of allograft rejection is accepted. Furthermore, it is now clear that the dominant regulator of peripheral B-cell homeostasis and tolerance is the B-Lymphocyte Stimulator (BLyS), also referred to as the B-cell activating factor (BAFF). Recently, a novel class of clinical immunotherapeutic agents specific for BLyS, and its family of cytokines, has emerged for the treatment of B-cell-mediated diseases. In this study, we demonstrate the potential utility of BLyS-directed immunotherapy in preventing allograft rejection using a murine islet transplantation model. Methods. A transient period of mature peripheral B-cell depletion was induced by means of in vivo BLyS neutralization using a murine analog of the monoclonal antibody, Benlysta. Subsequently, fully major histocompatibility complex-mismatched islets were transplanted into naïve diabetic mice followed by a short course of rapamycin. Results. After BLyS neutralization, indefinite islet allograft survival was achieved. Induction therapy with rapamycin was necessary, but not sufficient, for the achievement of this long-term graft survival. The tolerant state was associated with (1) abrogation of the donor-specific antibody response, (2) transient preponderance of immature/transitional B cells in all lymphoid organs, (3) impaired CD4 T-cell activation during the period of B-cell depletion, and (4) presence of a "regulatory" cytokine milieu. Conclusions. In vivo BLyS neutralization effectively induces humoral tolerance and promotes long-term islet allograft survival in mice. Therefore, B-lymphocyte-directed immunotherapy targeting the homeostatic regulator, BLyS, may be effective in promoting transplantation tolerance.
- Islet transplantation
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