Hematopoietic chimerism has been used in the laboratory to induce life- long immunologic tolerance to donor antigens. The present study demonstrates that mice transplanted with autologous bone marrow cells retrovirally transduced to express HLA-A2.1 develop a significantly depressed immune response to this antigen while retaining normal reactivity to HLA-B7. Retrovirus-mediated transduction was performed using whole bone marrow- producer cell coculture. This approach did not result in significant gene transfer into hematopoietic progenitor cells. Despite this, the antibody response to HLA-A2.1 in mice reconstituted with genetically modified BMC was completely suppressed three months following bone marrow transplantation. Cell-mediated immunity to HLA-A2.1 was partially suppressed in three-fourths of animals tested three months later, although one animal had a CTL profile similar to that of an HLA-A2.1 transgenic mouse. Complete suppression of the antibody-mediated immune response occurred when only one-third of mice had evidence of the introduced genes in their spleen and one-tenth had the introduced sequences in their circulating WBCs by PCR. In conclusion, engineering of BMC to express donor MHC genes may be an alternative to xenogeneic BMT to induce chimerism and tolerance. More efficient transduction of bone marrow progenitor cells may result in more persistent gene expression and long-lasting transplantation tolerance in recipients of genetically modified bone marrow. Successful application of this technology may also be useful in altering immune responses to other external and self antigens.
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