Induction of lethal graft-versus-host disease by anti-CD137 monoclonal antibody in mice prone to chronic graft-versus-host disease.

Research paper by Wonyoung W Kim, Juyang J Kim, Daehee D Jung, Hyuna H Kim, Hye-Jung HJ Choi, Hong R HR Cho, Byungsuk B Kwon

Indexed on: 11 Feb '09Published on: 11 Feb '09Published in: Biology of Blood and Marrow Transplantation


Chronic graft-versus-host disease (cGVHD) is an increasingly frequent complication of allogeneic stem cell transplantation. We previously showed that anti-CD137 monoclonal antibody (mAb) can cure advanced cGVHD by inducing activation-induced cell death of donor T cells. In this study, we examined whether administration of anti-CD137 mAb can prevent the development of cGVHD after bone marrow transplantation (BMT) in mice conditioned with total body irradiation (TBI). We used the B10.D2-->Balb/c (H-2(d)) minor histocompatibility antigen-mismatched model, which reflects clinical and pathological symptoms of human cGVHD. A single injection of anti-CD137 mAb was administered immediately after BMT. In contrast to the results obtained from the curing model of cGVHD, anti-CD137 given simultaneously with BMT resulted in lethal GVHD. Histopathologic evaluation revealed inflammation and damage of target organs from acute GVHD (aGVHD) in anti-CD137-treated mice. Anti-CD137-induced lethal aGVHD required host cells, as well as irradiation and mature donor T cells. Apparently, anti-CD137 mAb rapidly induced activation of donor T cells and sustained their activation status under the inflammatory condition triggered by irradiation. When given on day 12 after irradiation and BMT, anti-CD137 mAb could still exacerbate GVHD, but when given on day 30, it could not. Our data demonstrate that anti-CD137 mAb can amplify inflammation induced by host preconditioning, subsequently resulting in lethal aGVHD; thus, alleviating irradiation-induced toxicity is critical to allow the use of anti-CD137 mAb as GVHD prophylaxis.