Vascularized composite allotransplantation (VCA) has become a valid therapeutic option to restore form and function after devastating tissue loss. However, the need for high-dose multidrug immunosuppression to maintain allograft survival is still hampering more widespread application of VCA. In this study, we investigated the immunoregulatory potential of costimulation blockade (CoB; CTLA4-Ig and anti-CD154 mAb) combined with nonmyeoablative total body irradiation (TBI) to promote allograft survival of VCA in a fully MHC-mismatched mouse model of orthotopic hind limb transplantation. Compared with untreated controls (median survival time [MST] 8 days) and CTLA4-Ig treatment alone (MST 17 days), CoB treatment increased graft survival (MST 82 days), and the addition of nonmyeloablative TBI led to indefinite graft survival (MST > 210 days). Our analysis suggests that VCA-derived BM induced mixed chimerism in animals treated with CoB and TBI + CoB, promoting gradual deletion of alloreactive T cells as the underlying mechanism of long-term allograft survival. Acceptance of donor-matched secondary skin grafts, decreased ex vivo T cell responsiveness, and increased graft-infiltrating Tregs further indicated donor-specific tolerance induced by TBI + CoB. In summary, our data suggest that vascularized BM-containing VCAs are immunologically favorable grafts promoting chimerism induction and long-term allograft survival in the context of CoB.
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