Acute graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) considerably limits wider usage of allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (allo-HCT). Antigen-presenting cells and T cells are populations customarily associated with GVHD pathogenesis. Of note, neutrophils are the largest human white blood cell population. The cells cleave chemokines and produce reactive oxygen species, thereby promoting T cell activation. Therefore, during an allogeneic immune response, neutrophils could amplify tissue damage caused by conditioning regimens. We analyzed neutrophil infiltration of the mouse ileum after allo-HCT by in vivo myeloperoxidase imaging and found that infiltration levels were dependent on the local microbial flora and were not detectable under germ-free conditions. Physical or genetic depletion of neutrophils reduced GVHD-related mortality. The contribution of neutrophils to GVHD severity required reactive oxygen species (ROS) because selective Cybb (encoding cytochrome b-245, beta polypeptide, also known as NOX2) deficiency in neutrophils impairing ROS production led to lower levels of tissue damage, GVHD-related mortality and effector phenotype T cells. Enhanced survival of Bcl-xL transgenic neutrophils increased GVHD severity. In contrast, when we transferred neutrophils lacking Toll-like receptor-2 (TLR2), TLR3, TLR4, TLR7 and TLR9, which are normally less strongly activated by translocating bacteria, into wild-type C57BL/6 mice, GVHD severity was reduced. In humans, severity of intestinal GVHD strongly correlated with levels of neutrophils present in GVHD lesions. This study describes a new potential role for neutrophils in the pathogenesis of GVHD in both mice and humans.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)