BACKGROUND. Regulatory FOXP3+ T cells control immune responses of effector T cells. However, whether these cells regulate antidonor responses in the graft of cardiac allograft patients is unknown. Therefore, we analyzed the gene expression profiles of regulatory and effector T-cell markers during immunological quiescence and acute rejection. METHODS. Quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction was used to analyze mRNA expression levels in time-zero specimens (n=24) and endomyocardial biopsies (EMB; n=72) of cardiac allograft patients who remained free from rejection (nonrejectors; n=12) and patients with at least one histologically proven acute rejection episode (rejectors; International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation [ISHLT] rejection grade >2; n=12). RESULTS. For all analyzed regulatory and effector T-cell markers, mRNA expression levels were increased in biopsies taken after heart transplantation compared with those in time-zero specimens. Posttransplantation, the FOXP3 mRNA levels were higher in EMB assigned to a higher ISHLT rejection grade than the biopsies with grade 0: the highest mRNA levels were detected in the rejection biopsies (rejection grade >2; P=0.003). In addition, the mRNA levels of CD25, glucocorticoid-induced TNF receptor family-related gene, cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated antigen 4, interleukin-2, and granzyme B were also significantly higher in rejecting EMB than in nonrejecting EMB (rejection grade ≤2). This increase in expression levels in relation to the histological rejection grade was only observed in patients who developed an acute rejection episode; the mRNA levels of nonrejectors remained stable irrespective of ISHLT rejection grade. CONCLUSIONS. These observations suggest that, after clinical heart transplantation, FOXP3+ T cells do not prevent acute rejection, but rather are a response to antidonor effector T-cell activity.

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Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Dijke, E., Veldhuis, J., Caliskan, K., Korevaar, S., Maat, A., Zondervan, P., … Baan, C. (2007). Intragraft FOXP3 mRNA expression reflects antidonor immune reactivity in cardiac allograft patients. Transplantation, 83(11), 1477–1484. doi:10.1097/