Graft rejection presents a major obstacle for transplantation of T cell-depleted bone marrow in HLA-mismatched patients. In a primate model, after conditioning exactly as for leukemia patients, it was shown that over 99% of the residual host clonable T cells are concentrated in the spleen on day 5 after completion of cytoreduction. We have now corroborated these findings in a mouse model. After 9-Gy total body irradiation (TBI), the total number of Thy-1.2+ cells in the spleen reaches a peak between days 3 and 4 after TBI. The T cell population is composed of both L3T4 (helper) and Lyt-2 (suppressor) T cells, the former being the major subpopulation. Specific booster irradiation to the spleen (5 Gy twice) on days 2 and 4 after TBI greatly enhances production of donor-type chimera after transplantation of T cell-depleted allogeneic bone marrow. Similar enhancement can be achieved by splenectomy on day 3 or 4 after TBI but not if splenectomy is performed 1 day before TBI or 1 day after TBI, strengthening the hypothesis that, after lethal TBI in mice, the remaining host T cells migrate from the periphery to the spleen. These results suggest that a delayed booster irradiation to the spleen may be beneficial as an additional immunosuppressive agent in the conditioning of leukemia patients, in order to reduce the incidence of bone marrow allograft rejection.

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