Recent in vitro studies have documented that thromboxane (Tx)A2 induces thymocyte apoptosis by acting on specific receptors abundantly expressed on the surface of immature T lymphocytes. No information is available on the in vivo relevance of this observation in development of self- or acquired tolerance. We and others have previously documented that injection of donor cells into adult thymus of experimental animals induced specific systemic unresponsiveness to allografts in the rat and mouse models. More recently, we have shown that intrathymic injection of synthetic class II major histocompatibility complex (MHC) allopeptides resulted in donor-specific unresponsiveness to renal allografts. The induction of unresponsiveness was abrogated by recipient thymectomy within the first week. We now report the effect of TxA2 blockade on acquired thymic tolerance to renal allografts induced by intrathymic injection of synthetic class II MHC allopeptides in the Wistar-Furth (WF) to Lewis rat strain combination. Administration of the TxA2 receptor blocker prior to transplantation or 2 wk postengraftment completely abrogated the unresponsive state. In addition, inhibiting the TxA2-forming enzyme by aspirin or dexamethasone also abolished the induction of acquired thymic tolerance. Evidence is also provided for a critical 'dose' of peptides to be injected into the thymus to induce systemic unresponsiveness to renal allografts. These data, coupled with observations that activated peripheral T cells can circulate through the thymus, provide evidence that TxA2/TxA2 receptor interaction in the thymic microenvironment, leading to anergy/programmed cell death of activated T cells, may play an important role in the development of acquired unresponsiveness in vivo.
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