Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) is a leading cause of mortality following allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (allo-HSCT). Mature donor T cells in the graft mediate graft-versus-leukemia (GVL) responses against residual tumor cells, which may persist after pre-transplant conditioning regimens. Importantly, the same mature T cells also mediate GVHD. The transcription factor T Cell Factor-1 (TCF-1) is critical for T cell development in the thymus. Using a unique mouse model of allo-HSCT leading to GVHD, we investigated the role of TCF-1 in alloactivated T cell functioning and in GVHD. Here, we report that loss of TCF-1 in mature CD4 T cells reduces GVHD severity and persistence, improving survival of recipient mice. This was due to reduced proliferation, survival, and cytokine production of T cells, as well as increased exhaustion. Gene pathways involved in cytokine response, immune signaling, chemokine signaling, cell cycle, and T cell differentiation were altered by loss of TCF-1 in donor cells. Our companion paper shows that regulation of alloactivated CD4 T cells by TCF-1 differs from regulation of CD8 T cells, suggesting that TCF-1 plays a unique role in each subset. Therefore, targeting of TCF-1 or downstream signaling pathways may be an effective strategy for reducing GVHD following allo-HSCT.
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