The rejection of xenografts is characterized by infiltration of monocytes and natural killer (NK) cells into the graft, suggesting an important role for the innate immune system in xenorecognition. In this study, purified human NK or T cells were cocultured with porcine endothelial cells, and cytokines were analyzed by ELISA and intracellular FACS. We demonstrated a vigorous human anti-porcine xenoresponse that was associated with a strong T-cell proliferation against porcine endothelial cells. Limiting dilution cloning and T-cell receptor (TCR) Vp gene usage revealed a low number of xenoreactive T-cell precursors. We demonstrated that xenogeneic porcine but not allogeneic human endothelial cells induced the early production of interferon (IFN)-γ by human NK cells but not by CD3+ T cells. Porcine xenoantigen-induced IFN-γ production was only partially dependent on IL-12. Blocking IL-12 with neutralizing antibodies or by depletion of human macrophages partially decreased IFN-γ production by CD56+ NK cells. Three-color flow cytometry revealed that IL-12 was produced through a species-specific activation of human macrophages by porcine endothelial cells. Our results indicate that the direct activation of NK cells and macrophages by porcine endothelial cells provides a unique pathway of xenorecognition that augments downstream specific T-cell immunity and represents a powerful effector mechanism in xenograft rejection.
- Cellular immunity
- Natural killer cells