Key role of macrophages in tolerance induction via T regulatory type 1 (Tr1) cells

B. Mfarrej, T. Jofra, C. Morsiani, N. Gagliani, G. Fousteri, M. Battaglia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


T regulatory type 1 (Tr1) cells are a class of regulatory T cells (Tregs) participating in peripheral tolerance, hence the rationale behind their testing in clinical trials in different disease settings. One of their applications is tolerance induction to allogeneic islets for long-term diabetes-free survival. Currently the cellular and molecular mechanisms that promote Tr1-cell induction in vivo remain poorly understood. We employed a mouse model of transplant tolerance where treatment with granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF)/rapamycin induces permanent engraftment of allogeneic pancreatic islets in C57BL/6 mice via Tr1 cells. The innate composition of graft and spleen cells in tolerant mice was analyzed by flow cytometry. Graft phagocytic cells were co-cultured with CD4+ T cells in vitro to test their ability to induce Tr1-cell induction. Graft phagocytic cells were depleted in vivo at different time-points during G-CSF/rapamycin treatment, to identify their role in Tr1-cell induction and consequently in graft survival. In the spleen, the site of Tr1-cell induction, no differences in the frequencies of macrophages or dendritic cells (DC) were observed. In the graft, the site of antigen uptake, a high proportion of macrophages and not DC was detected in tolerant but not in rejecting mice. Graft-infiltrating macrophages of G-CSF/rapamycin-treated mice had an M2 phenotype, characterized by higher CD206 expression and interleukin (IL)-10 production, whereas splenic macrophages only had an increased CD206 expression. Graft-infiltrating cells from G-CSF/rapamycin-treated mice-induced Tr1-cell expansion in vitro. Furthermore, Tr1-cell induction was perturbed upon in-vivo depletion of phagocytic cells, early and not late during treatment, leading to graft loss suggesting that macrophages play a key role in tolerance induction mediated by Tr1 cells. Taken together, in this mouse model of Tr1-cell induced tolerance to allogeneic islets, M2 macrophages infiltrating the graft upon G-CSF/rapamycin treatment are key for Tr1-cell induction. This work provides mechanistic insight into pharmacologically induced Tr1-cell expansion in vivo in this stringent model of allogeneic transplantation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)222-230
Number of pages9
JournalClinical and Experimental Immunology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1 2020


  • macrophage
  • regulatory T cells
  • tolerance
  • transplantation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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