Darlene A Monlish, Kevin J Beezhold, Pailin Chiaranunt, Katelyn Paz, Nathan J Moore, Andrea K Dobbs, Rebecca A Brown, John A Ozolek, Bruce R Blazar, Craig A Byersdorfer

Jul 22, 2021
JCI insight
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Allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation is a viable treatment for multiple hematologic diseases, but its application is often limited by graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), where donor T cells attack host tissues in the skin, liver, and gastrointestinal tract. Here, we examined the role of the cellular energy sensor AMP kinase (AMPK) in alloreactive T cells during GVHD development. Early posttransplant, AMPK activity increased more than 15-fold in allogeneic T cells, and transplantation of T cells deficient in both AMPKα1 and AMPKα2 decreased GVHD severity in multiple disease models. Importantly, a lack of AMPK lessened GVHD without compromising antileukemia responses or impairing lymphopenia-driven immune reconstitution. Mechanistically, absence of AMPK decreased both CD4+ and CD8+ effector T cell numbers as early as day 3 posttransplant, while simultaneously increasing regulatory T cell (Treg) percentages. Improvements in GVHD resulted from cell-intrinsic perturbations in conventional effector T cells as depletion of donor Tregs had minimal impact on AMPK-related improvements. Together, these results highlight a specific role for AMPK in allogeneic effector T cells early posttransplant and suggest that AMPK inhibition may be an innovative approach to mitigate GVHD while preserving graft-versus-leukemia responses and maintaining robust immune reconstitution.
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