Our previous studies in rats showed that incubation of monocytic dendritic cells (DCs) with the chemotherapeutic drug mitomycin C (MMC) renders the cells immunosuppressive. Donor-derived MMC–DCs injected into the recipient prior to transplantation prolonged heart allograft survival. Although the generation of DCs is labour-intensive and time-consuming, peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) can be easily harvested. In the present study, we analyse under which conditions DCs can be replaced by PBMCs and examine their mode of action. When injected into rats, MMC-incubated donor PBMCs (MICs) strongly prolonged heart allograft survival. Removal of monocytes from PBMCs completely abrogated their suppressive effect, indicating that monocytes are the active cell population. Suppression of rejection was donor-specific. The injected MICs migrated into peripheral lymphoid organs and led to an increased number of regulatory T-cells (Tregs) expressing cluster of differentiation (CD) markers CD4 and CD25 and forkhead box protein 3 (FoxP3). Tolerance could be transferred to syngeneic recipients with blood or spleen cells. Depletion of Tregs from tolerogenic cells abrogated their suppressive effect, arguing for mediation of immunosuppression by CD4+CD25+FoxP3+ Tregs. Donor-derived MICs also prolonged kidney allograft survival in pigs. MICs generated from donor monocytes were applied for the first time in humans in a patient suffering from therapy-resistant rejection of a haploidentical stem cell transplant. We describe, in the present paper, a simple method for in vitro generation of suppressor blood cells for potential use in clinical organ transplantation. Although the case report does not allow us to draw any conclusion about their therapeutic effectiveness, it shows that MICs can be easily generated and applied in humans.

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