Infiltration of a transplanted organ by host lymphoid cells is the hallmark of acute rejection. However, after intestinal transplantation, physiological lymphocyte migration may lead to host cell infiltration of the graft even in the absence of rejection. It is unclear whether this lymphocyte migration also involves the intraepithelial compartment of the graft or whether infiltration there is indicative of acute rejection. We demonstrate here that host cell infiltration of the intestinal mucosa occurs both during acute rejection of a small bowel allograft and, to a lesser extent, when rejection is prevented by immunosuppression with FK506. The infiltrating host cells consisted of CD3+ T cells with a predominant CD4-CD8+ phenotype resembling intraepithelial lymphocytes (IELs). Functional studies showed that the nonspecific cytolytic activity of IELs was not affected by acute rejection or by immunosuppression with FK506. These findings indicate that host cell infiltration of the intestinal mucosa does not connote an ongoing acute rejection. Furthermore, the decreased mucosal barrier function during acute rejection of intestinal allgrafts is probably not due to impaired cytolytic activity of IELs.
- Acute rejection, intraepithelial lymphocytes, intestinal transplantation
- Intestinal transplantation, acute rejection, intraepithelial lymphocytes
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