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Local regulation of T-cell immunity in the intestinal mucosa

María Josefina Peña Mosca


After priming in Peyer’s patches (PPs) and mesenteric lymph nodes (mLN) Tcells infiltrate the intestine through lymphatic draining and homing through the bloodstream. However, we found that in mouse models of acute graft-versus-host disease (GvHD), a subset of alloreactive T-cells directly migrates from PPs to the adjacent intestinal lamina propria (LP), bypassing the normal lymphatic drainage and vascular trafficking routes. Notably, this direct migration occurred in irradiated and unirradiated GvHD models, indicating that irradiation is not a prerequisite for this observed behavior.

Next, we established a method termed serial intravascular staining (SIVS) in mouse models to systematically investigate the trafficking and migration of donor Tcells in the early stages of acute GvHD initiation. We found that the direct migration of T-cells from PPs to LP resulted in faster recruitment of cells after allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (allo-HCT). These directly migrating T-cells were found to be in an activated and proliferative state, exhibiting a TH1/TH17-like phenotype and producing cytokines such as IFN-γ and TNF-α. Furthermore, we observed that the directly migrating alloreactive T-cells expressed specific integrins (α4+, αE+) and chemokine receptors (CxCR3+, CCR5+, and CCR9+). Surprisingly, blocking these integrins and chemokine-coupled receptors did not hinder the direct migration of Tcells from PPs to LP, suggesting the involvement of alternative mechanisms. Previous experiments ruled out the involvement of S1PR1 and topographical features of macrophages, leading us to hypothesize that mediators of cytoskeleton reorganization, such as Coro1a, Dock2, or Cdc42, may play a role in this unique migration process.

Additionally, we observed that directly migrating T-cells created a local inflammatory microenvironment, which attracts circulating T-cells. Histological analysis confirmed that alloreactive PPs-derived T-cells and bloodborne T-cells colocalized. We employed two experimental approaches, including either photoconversion of T-cells in PPs or direct transfer of activated T-cells into the vasculature, to demonstrate this colocalization. We hypothesize that cytokines released by migrating T-cells, such as IFN-γ and TNF-α, may play a role in recruiting T-cells from the vasculature, as inhibiting chemokine-coupled receptors did not impair recruitment.