In three different murine models of bone marrow (BM) transplantation the capacity of asialo GM1+ cells to suppress graft-vs-host disease (GVHD) was investigated. In a first model, total lymphoid irradiation (TLI)-treated BALB/C mice were given 1 mg of anti-asialo GM1 antibody. This led to the disappearance of functional suppressor cells after TLI. Injections of anti-asialo GM1 into TLI-treated BALB/C mice before infusion of 30 x 10(6) fully allogeneic (C3H) BM cells, led to a significantly decreased survival rate as compared to TLI-treated mice injected with control serum before BM transplantation (survival 29 and 83%, respectively, at 120 days after transplantation, p = 0.0032 log rank). The mortality of the former group was due to GVHD as 1 degree all dying animals showed clinical and histologic signs of GVHD, 2 degrees all animals were chimeric and 3 degrees mice receiving no or syngeneic BALB/C BM had excellent survival rates excluding BM aplasia or increased susceptibility for infections as reason for the mortality of the allogeneic BM recipients. In a second model, asialo GM1+ cells were removed in vitro from the C3H BM inoculum before injection into lethally irradiated (9 Gy) BALB/C recipients. In mice kept in specific pathogen-free conditions, this procedure resulted into a significant mortality (12/12) as compared to mice receiving BM pretreated with control serum (1/12, p = 0.0001 log rank). When kept in conventional housing, GVHD occurred in both groups but much earlier in the group receiving anti-asialo GM1-treated BM (median survival time 6 vs 46 days for the control mice, p = 0.001 log rank). No animal receiving anti-asialo GM1 and treated with syngeneic BM died, thus excluding toxicity, increased susceptibility to infections, or decreased graft take as a cause of mortality. In a last model, asialo GM1 cells were removed from syngeneic BM in a BM transplantation model in which T cell-depleted syngeneic (BALB/C) and non-T cell-depleted allogeneic (C3H) BM was administered to lethally irradiated (9 Gy) BALB/C mice. Also in this model GVHD-related mortality only occurred in the group of mice receiving syngeneic BM from which asialo GM+ cells were depleted before infusion (3/12). Our experiments thus clearly show that asialo GM1+ cells from both recipient (the TLI model) as well as donor origin (the TBI experiments) can suppress the occurrence of GVHD.

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