Journal of translational medicine

Synergic silencing of costimulatory molecules prevents cardiac allograft rejection.

PMID 24886282


While substantial progress has been made in blocking acute transplant rejection with the advent of immune suppressive drugs, chronic rejection, mediated primarily by recipient antigen presentation, remains a formidable problem in clinical transplantation. We hypothesized that blocking co-stimulatory pathways in the recipient by induction of RNA interference using small interference RNA (siRNA) expression vectors can prolong allogeneic heart graft survival. Vectors expressing siRNA specifically targeting CD40 and CD80 were prepared. Recipients (BALB/c mice) were treated with CD40 and/or CD80 siRNA expression vectors via hydrodynamic injection. Control groups were injected with a scrambled siRNA vector and sham treatment (PBS). After treatment, a fully MHC-mismatched (BALB/c to C57/BL6) heart transplantation was performed. Allogeneic heart graft survival (>100 days) was approximately 70% in the mice treated simultaneously with CD40 and CD80 siRNA expression vectors with overall reduction in lymphocyte interstitium infiltration, vascular obstruction, and edema. Hearts transplanted into CD40 or CD80 siRNA vector-treated recipients had an increased graft survival time compared to negative control groups, but did not survive longer than 40 days. In contrast, allogenic hearts transplanted into recipients treated with scrambled siRNA vector and PBS stopped beating within 10-16 days. Real-time PCR (RT-PCR) and flow cytometric analysis showed an upregulation of FoxP3 expression in spleen lymphocytes and a concurrent downregulation of CD40 and CD80 expression in splenic dendritic cells of siRNA-treated mice. Functional suppressive activity of splenic dendritic cells (DCs) isolated from tolerant recipients was demonstrated in a mixed lymphocyte reaction (MLR). Furthermore, DCs isolated from CD40- and CD80-treated recipients promoted CD4+CD25+FoxP3+ regulatory T cell differentiation in vitro. This study demonstrates that the simultaneous silencing of CD40 and CD80 genes has synergistic effects in preventing allograft rejection, and may therefore have therapeutic potential in clinical transplantation.