Recent studies suggest that graft microvascular endothelia may play an important role in the regulation of rejection. Alloantigen-dependent changes in microvascular endothelial phenotype may be associated with differences in infiltrate function in allografts vs. isografts, as reflected in alloantigen- specific CTL accumulation and cytokine production. To correlate cytokine production with differences in microvascular endothelial phenotype during allograft inflammation, we used PCR to identify cytokine mRNAs isolated from pooled cardiac isografts and allografts on days 1, 3, and 5 after transplantation. Graft microvascular endothelia express an inflamed phenotype associated with wound healing and the repair of tissue damage due to mechanical trauma, ischemia, and/or reperfusion injury-i.e., high levels of ICAM-1 expression and MECA-32 mAb reactivity. By day 1 in both isografts and allografts, mRNAs for the cytokines IL1α, IL6, TNF, LT, and TGFβ are upregulated or induced. By the third day in cardiac allografts, an antigen- dependent endothelial phenotype is expressed, characterized by the presence of cell surface VCAM-1. Concomitantly, mRNAs for the lymphokines IL2 and IFNγ are detected, followed by IL4 mRNA by day 5. The expression of VCAM-1 by allograft endothelia may influence the inflammatory process, by physically recruiting specific T cell subpopulations into the response and/or by delivering additional signals to the infiltrating cells. Eventually, these and other regulatory events occurring at these early times initiate a process that later results in alloreactive tissue destruction.
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