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Graft-versus-host disease (GvHD) is a chief complication of allogeneic bone marrow transplantation. In HLA-identical bone marrow transplantation, GvHD may be induced by disparities in minor histocompatibility antigens (mHags) between the donor and the recipient, with the antigen being present in the recipient and not in the donor. Cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) specific for mHags of the recipients can be isolated from the blood of recipients with severe GvHD (ref. 3). A retrospective study demonstrated an association between mismatch for mHags HA-1, -2, -4 and -5 and the occurrence of GvHD in adult recipients of bone marrow from HLA genotypically identical donors. Tetrameric HLA-peptide complexes have been used to visualize and quantitate antigen-specific CTLs in HIV-infected individuals and during Epstein-Barr virus and lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus infections. Here we show the direct ex vivo visualization of mHag-specific CTLs during GvHD using tetrameric HLA-class and I-mHag HA-1 and HY peptide complexes. In the peripheral blood of 17 HA-1 or HY mismatched marrow recipients, HA-1- and HY-specific CTLs were detected as early as 14 days after bone marrow transplantation. The tetrameric complexes demonstrated a significant increase in HA-1- and HY-specific CTLs during acute and chronic GvHD, which decreased after successful GvHD treatment. HLA class I-mHag peptide tetramers may serve as clinical tools for the diagnosis and monitoring of GvHD patients.

Original publication




Journal article


Nat Med

Publication Date





839 - 842


Adult, Bone Marrow Transplantation, Graft vs Host Disease, Histocompatibility Antigens Class I, Histocompatibility Testing, Humans, Macromolecular Substances, Minor Histocompatibility Antigens, Monitoring, Immunologic, Retrospective Studies, T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic, Transplantation, Homologous