The role of co-inhibitory signals in spontaneous tolerance of weakly mismatched transplants

Govindarajan Thangavelu, Kenneth M. Murphy, Hideo Yagita, Louis Boon, Colin C. Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The immune system of female H-2 b (C57BL/6) mice is a strong responder against the male minor-H antigen. However rejection or acceptance of such weakly mismatched grafts depends on the type of tissue transplanted. The mechanism responsible for such spontaneous graft acceptance, and its relationship to the natural mechanisms of tolerance of self antigens is unknown. Co-inhibitory molecules negatively regulate immune responses, and are important for self tolerance. We examined whether co-inhibitory molecules play a critical role in " spontaneous" allograft tolerance. Naïve or donor sensitized diabetic female C57BL/6 (B6) wild type (WT), PD-1 -/-, and BTLA -/- mice were transplanted with freshly isolated syngeneic male islet grafts. The role of co-inhibitors during priming of anti-donor responses and graft challenge was also assessed using monoclonal antibodies targeting co-inhibitory receptors. Among the co-inhibitor (CTLA-4, PD-1) specific antibodies tested, only anti-PD-1 showed some potential to prevent spontaneous acceptance of male islet grafts. All BTLA -/- and almost all PD-1 -/- recipients maintained the ability to spontaneously accept male islet grafts. While spontaneous graft acceptance in naïve recipients was only weakly PD-1 dependent, tolerance induced by the accepted islets was found to be highly PD-1 dependent. Furthermore, spontaneous graft acceptance in pre-sensitized recipients showed an absolute requirement for recipient PD-1 but not BTLA. Thus, the PD-1 pathway, involved in self tolerance, plays a critical role in spontaneous tolerance induced by weakly mismatched grafts in naïve recipients and spontaneous graft acceptance in pre-sensitized recipients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)918-924
Number of pages7
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2011


  • Co-inhibitory molecules
  • HY antigen
  • Islet transplantation
  • PD-1
  • Tolerance


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