At present, the transplantation of vascularized limb-tissue allografts can be achieved only with generalized host immunosuppression, which results in significant systemic toxicity, thereby precluding their clinical use. A better understanding of the immunogenic mechanisms of these allografts may permit less toxic and thus clinically applicable means of host immunosuppression. In this study, individual vascularized limb tissues (skin, subcutaneous tissue, muscle, bone, and blood vessels) and a whole limb were transplanted microsurgically across a strong histocompatibility barrier in rats. The respective cell-mediated and humoral immune responses generated in the hosts were determined by means of mixed lymphocyte cultures by radioactive 51Cr release assays and compared. No single tissue predominated in the elicited immune response. Rather, the various tissue components interacted with the host immune system in a complex but predictable pattern with differing timing and intensity. Surprisingly, the whole-limb allograft elicited less immune response than did allografts of its individual components. The data presented here also serve as a foundation for further elucidation of the immunogenic mechanisms of vascularized limb-tissue allografts.
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