Human MAIT cells inhibit alloreactive T cell responses and protect against acute graft-versus-host disease.

JCI insight(2024)

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Adoptive transfer of immunoregulatory cells can prevent or ameliorate graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), which remains the main cause of nonrelapse mortality after allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. Mucosal-associated invariant T (MAIT) cells were recently associated with tissue repair capacities and with lower rates of GVHD in humans. Here, we analyzed the immunosuppressive effect of MAIT cells in an in vitro model of alloreactivity and explored their adoptive transfer in a preclinical xenogeneic GVHD model. We found that MAIT cells, whether freshly purified or short-term expanded, dose-dependently inhibited proliferation and activation of alloreactive T cells. In immunodeficient mice injected with human PBMCs, MAIT cells greatly delayed GVHD onset and decreased severity when transferred early after PBMC injection but could also control ongoing GVHD when transferred at delayed time points. This effect was associated with decreased proliferation and effector function of human T cells infiltrating tissues of diseased mice and was correlated with lower circulating IFN-γ and TNF-α levels and increased IL-10 levels. MAIT cells acted partly in a contact-dependent manner, which likely required direct interaction of their T cell receptor with MHC class I-related molecule (MR1) induced on host-reactive T cells. These results support the setup of clinical trials using MAIT cells as universal therapeutic tools to control severe GVHD or mucosal inflammatory disorders.
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