Biol Blood Marrow Transplant 2017 Jul 23;23(7):1046-1053. Epub 2017 Mar 23.
Department of Hematology, Hemostasis, Oncology and Stem Cell Transplantation, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany. Electronic address:
Complete donor chimerism is strongly associated with complete remission after allogeneic stem cell transplantation (allo-SCT) in patients with hematologic malignancies. Donor-derived allo-immune responses eliminate the residual host hematopoiesis and thereby mediate the conversion to complete donor chimerism. Recently, cytomegalovirus (CMV) reactivation was described to enhance overall T cell reconstitution, to increase graft-versus-host disease incidence, and to reduce the leukemia relapse risk. However, the link between CMV and allo-immune responses is still unclear. Here, we studied the relationship between CMV-specific immunity, overall T cell reconstitution, and residual host chimerism in 106 CMV-seropositive patients transplanted after reduced-intensity conditioning including antithymocyte globulin. In accordance with previous reports, the recovery of CMV-specific cytotoxic T cells (CMV-CTLs) was more frequent in CMV-seropositive recipients (R) transplanted from CMV-seropositive than from seronegative donors (D). However, once CMV-CTLs were detectable, the reconstitution of CMV-specific CTLs was comparable in CMV R+/D- and R+/D+ patients. CD3 and CD8 T cell reconstitution was significantly faster in patients with CMV-CTLs than in patients without CMV-CTLs both in the CMV R+/D- and R+/D+ setting. Moreover, CMV-CTL numbers correlated with CD3 and CD8 T cell numbers in both settings. Finally, presence of CMV-CTLs was associated with low host chimerism levels 3 months after allo-SCT. In conclusion, our data provide a first indication that CMV-CTLs in CMV-seropositive patients might trigger the reconstitution of T cells and allo-immune responses reflected by the conversion to complete donor chimerism.