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Poor graft function (PGF) is a life-threatening complication after allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (allo-HSCT). Nevertheless, whether abnormalities of T cell subsets in the bone marrow (BM) immune microenvironment, including Th17, Tc17, Th1, Tc1, Th2, Tc2 cells and regulatory T cells (Tregs), are involved in the pathogenesis of PGF remains unclear.
This prospective nested case–control study enrolled 20 patients with PGF, 40 matched patients with good graft function (GGF) after allo-HSCT, and 20 healthy donors (HD). Th17, Tc17, Th1, Tc1, Th2, Tc2 cells, Tregs and their subsets were analyzed by flow cytometry.
A significantly higher proportion of stimulated CD4+ and CD8+ T cells that produced IL-17 (Th17 and Tc17) was found in the BM of PGF patients than in the BM of GGF patients and HD, whereas the percentages of Tregs in PGF patients were comparable to those in GGF patients and HD, resulting in a dramatically elevated ratio of Th17 cells/Tregs in the BM of PGF patients relative to those in GGF patients. Moreover, both CD4+ and CD8+ T cells were polarized towards a type 1 immune response in the BM of PGF patients.
The present study revealed that aberrant T cell responses in the BM immune microenvironment may be involved in the pathogenesis of PGF after allo-HSCT. These findings will facilitate the optimization of immune regulation strategies and improve the outcome of PGF patients post-allotransplant.