Toyofuku A, Yasunami Y, Nabeyama K, Nakano M, Satoh M, Matsuoka N, Ono J, Nakayama T, Taniguchi M, Tanaka M, Ikeda S.
A role of natural killer T (NKT) cells in transplant rejection remains unknown. Here, we determined whether NKT cells participate in rejection of islet allografts, using NKT cell-deficient mice. Survival of islet allografts in streptozotocin-induced diabetic CD1d(-/-) mice or Valpha14 NKT cell(-/-) mice was significantly prolonged without immunosuppression when grafted into the liver, but not beneath the kidney capsule, compared with wild-type mice. Acceptance of intrahepatic islet allografts was achieved in CD1d(-/-) mice by a subtherapeutic dose of rapamycin, which was abrogated in conjunction with the transfer of hepatic mononuclear cells from wild-type, but not from CD1d(-/-), mice at islet transplantation. The second islet grafts from a donor-specific, but not from a third-party, strain in CD1d(-/-) mice bearing functional islet allografts were accepted without immunosuppression at 120 days after the initial transplantation. These findings demonstrate that NKT cells play a significant role in rejection of islet allografts in the liver of mice, but that NKT cells are not essential for induction of donor-specific unresponsiveness in this model. The current study indicates that NKT cells might be considered as a target for intervention to prevent islet allograft rejection when the liver is the site of transplantation.