Long-Term Heart Transplant Survival by Targeting the Ionotropic Purinergic Receptor P2X7
Background—Heart transplantation is a lifesaving procedure for patients with end-stage heart failure. Despite much effort and advances in the field, current immunosuppressive regimens are still associated with poor long-term cardiac allograft outcomes as well as with the development of complications including infections and malignancies. The development of a novel, short-term and effective immunomodulatory protocol will thus be an important achievement. The purine adenosine 5'-triphosphate (ATP), released during cell damage/activation, is sensed by the ionotropic purinergic receptor P2X7 (P2X7R) on lymphocytes and regulates T cell activation. Novel clinical-grade P2X7R inhibitors are available, rendering the targeting of P2X7R a potential therapy in cardiac transplantation.
Methods and Results—We analyzed P2X7R expression in patients and mice and P2X7R targeting in murine recipients in the context of cardiac transplantation. Our data demonstrate that P2X7R is specifically upregulated in graft-infiltrating lymphocytes in cardiac-transplanted humans and mice. Short-term P2X7R targeting with periodate-oxidized ATP (oATP) promotes long-term cardiac transplant survival in 80% of murine recipients of a fully mismatched allograft. Long-term survival of cardiac transplants was associated with reduced T cell activation, Th1/Th17 differentiation and inhibition of STAT3 phosphorylation in T cells, thus leading to a reduced transplant infiltrate and coronaropathy. In vitro genetic upregulation of the P2X7R pathway was also shown to stimulate Th1/Th17 cell generation. Finally, P2X7R targeting halted the progression of coronaropathy in a murine model of chronic rejection as well.
Conclusions—P2X7R targeting is a novel clinically relevant strategy to prolong cardiac transplant survival.
- Received June 14, 2012.
- Accepted November 26, 2012.
- Copyright © 2012, American Heart Association, Inc. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use prohibited