Modeling Chronic Graft-versus-Host Disease in MHC-Matched Mouse Strains: Genetics, Graft Composition, and Tissue Targets

Antonia M.S. Müller, Dullei Min, Gerlinde Wernig, Robert B. Levy, Victor L. Perez, Samantha Herretes, Mareike Florek, Casey Burnett, Kenneth Weinberg, Judith A. Shizuru

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) remains a major complication of allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation. Acute GVHD (aGVHD) results from direct damage by donor T cells, whereas the biology of chronic GVHD (cGVHD) with its autoimmune-like manifestations remains poorly understood, mainly because of the paucity of representative preclinical models. We examined over an extended time period 7 MHC-matched, minor antigen–mismatched mouse models for development of cGVHD. Development and manifestations of cGVHD were determined by a combination of MHC allele type and recipient strain, with BALB recipients being the most susceptible. The C57BL/6 into BALB.B combination most closely modeled the human syndrome. In this strain combination moderate aGVHD was observed and BALB.B survivors developed overt cGVHD at 6 to 12 months affecting eyes, skin, and liver. Naïve CD4+ cells caused this syndrome as no significant pathology was induced by grafts composed of purified hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) or HSC plus effector memory CD4+ or CD8+ cells. Furthermore, co-transferred naïve and effector memory CD4+ T cells demonstrated differential homing patterns and locations of persistence. No clear association with donor Th17 cells and the phenotype of aGVHD or cGVHD was observed in this model. Donor CD4+ cells caused injury to medullary thymic epithelial cells, a key population responsible for negative T cell selection, suggesting that impaired thymic selection was an underlying cause of the cGVHD syndrome. In conclusion, we report for the first time that the C57BL/6 into BALB.B combination is a representative model of cGVHD that evolves from immunologic events during the early post-transplant period.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalBiology of Blood and Marrow Transplantation
StateAccepted/In press - 2019


  • Chronic graft-versus-host disease
  • Mouse models
  • Pathophysiology
  • Thymic damage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology
  • Transplantation


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