IL-21 is the most recently discovered common gamma-chain cytokine that promotes persistent T-cell responses in chronic infections, autoimmunity and cancer. However, the therapeutic potential of inhibiting the IL-21-BATF signaling axis, particularly in transplant rejection, remains unclear. We used heart transplant models to examine the effects of IL-21 blockade in prevention of chronic cardiac allograft vasculopathy (CAV) using genetic knockout and therapeutic approaches. Both wild-type C57BL/6 and IL-21-/- strains acutely rejected Balb/c skin grafts and once immunized with this skin graft, rejected Balb/c heart allografts in an accelerated fashion. However, when transplanted with heart grafts from the class-II major histocompatibility complex mutant, B6bm12 mice; wild-type recipients developed CAV, while IL-21-/- recipients were protected, even at day 100 post-transplant. Similarly, BATF-/- recipients, lacking the transcription factor BATF responsible for IL-21 production, did not develop CAV in B6-bm12 heart allografts. Strikingly, in a transient treatment protocol, the development of CAV in wild-type recipients of B6-bm12 hearts allografts was blocked by the administration of IL-21 receptor fusion protein (R-Fc). Thus, we demonstrate that CAV is regulated at least in part by IL-21 signaling and its blockade by genetic approaches or therapy with IL-21R-Fc prevents CAV in mice.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)