Graft rejection remains a major obstacle in allogeneic hematopoietic SCT following reduced-intensity conditioning (RIC-SCT), particularly after cord blood transplantation (CBT). In a murine MHC-mismatched model of RIC-SCT, primary graft rejection was associated with activation and expansion of donor-reactive host T cells in peripheral blood and BM early after SCT. Donor-derived dendritic cells are at least partly involved in host T-cell activation. We then evaluated if such an expansion of host T cells could be associated with graft rejection after RIC-CBT. Expansion of residual host lymphocytes was observed in 4/7 patients with graft rejection at 3 weeks after CBT, but in none of the 17 patients who achieved engraftment. These results suggest the crucial role of residual host T cells after RIC-SCT in graft rejection and expansion of host T cells could be a marker of graft rejection. Development of more efficient T cell-suppressive conditioning regimens may be necessary in the context of RIC-SCT.
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