Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) is a critical complication after allogeneic bone marrow transplantation. During GVHD, donor T cells are activated by host antigen-presenting cells and differentiate into T-effector cells (Teffs) that migrate to GVHD target organs. However, local environmental factors influencing Teff differentiation and migration are largely unknown. Vitamin A metabolism within the intestine produces retinoic acid, which contributes to intestinal homeostasis and tolerance induction. Here, we show that the expression and function of vitamin A-metabolizing enzymes were increased in the intestine and mesenteric lymph nodes in mice with active GVHD. Moreover, transgenic donor T cells expressing a retinoic acid receptor (RAR) response element luciferase reporter responded to increased vitamin A metabolites in GVHD-affected organs. Increasing RAR signaling accelerated GVHD lethality, whereas donor T cells expressing a dominant-negative RARα (dnRARα) showed markedly diminished lethality. The dnRARα transgenic T cells showed reduced Th1 differentiation and α4β7 and CCR9 expression associated with poor intestinal migration, low GVHD pathology, and reduced intestinal permeability, primarily via CD4(+) T cells. The inhibition of RAR signaling augmented donor-induced Treg generation and expansion in vivo, while preserving graft-versus-leukemia effects. Together, these results suggested that reagents blunting donor T-cell RAR signaling may possess therapeutic anti-GVHD properties.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology