IFN-γ is a pleiotropic cytokine that plays a controversial role in regulatory T cell (Treg) activity. In this study, we sought to understand how IFN-γ receptor (IFN-γR) signaling affects donor Tregs following allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplant (allo-HCT), a potentially curative therapy for leukemia. We show that IFN-γR signaling inhibits Treg expansion and conversion of conventional T cells (Tcons) to peripheral Tregs in both mice and humans. Mice receiving IFN-γR–deficient allo-HCT showed markedly reduced graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) and graft-versus-leukemia (GVL) effects, a trend associated with increased frequencies of Tregs, compared with recipients of wild-type allo-HCT. In mice receiving Treg-depleted allo-HCT, IFN-γR deficiency–induced peripheral Treg conversion was effective in preventing persistent GVHD while minimally affecting GVL effects. Thus, impairing IFN-γR signaling in Tcons may offer a promising strategy for achieving GVL effects without refractory GVHD. Similarly, in a human PBMC-induced xenogeneic GVHD model, significant inhibition of GVHD and an increase in donor Tregs were observed in mice cotransferred with human CD4 T cells that were deleted of IFN-γR1 by CRISPR/Cas9 technology, providing proof-of-concept support for using IFN-γR–deficient T cells in clinical allo-HCT.

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