BACKGROUND: Long-term graft deterioration remains a major obstacle in the success of pancreatic islet transplantation (PITx). Antigen-independent inflammatory and innate immune responses strengthen subsequent antigen-dependent immunity; further, activation of nuclear factor (NF)-κB plays a key role during these responses. In this study, we tested our hypothesis that, by the inhibition of NF-κB activation, the suppression of these early responses after PITx could facilitate graft acceptance. METHODS: Full major histocompatibility complex (MHC)-mismatched BALB/c (H-2) mice islets were transplanted into streptozotocin-induced diabetic C57BL/6 (B6: H-2) mice. The NF-κB inhibitor dehydroxymethylepoxyquinomicin (DHMEQ) was administered for either 3 or 14 days after PITx. To some PITx recipients, tacrolimus was also administered. Islet allograft survival, alloimmune responses, and in vitro effects of DHMEQ on dendritic cells (DCs) were assessed. RESULTS: With a vehicle treatment, 600 islet allografts were promptly rejected after PITx. In contrast, 3-day treatment with DHMEQ, followed by 2-week treatment with tacrolimus, allowed permanent acceptance of islet allografts. The endogenous danger-signaling molecule high mobility group complex 1 (HMGB1) was elevated in sera shortly after PITx, whereas DHMEQ administration abolished this elevation. DHMEQ suppressed HMGB1-driven cellular activation and proinflammatory cytokine secretion in mouse bone marrow-derived DCs and significantly reduced the capacity of DCs to prime allogeneic T-cell proliferation in vitro. Finally, the DHMEQ plus tacrolimus regimen reverted the diabetic state with only 300 islet allografts. CONCLUSIONS: Inhibition of NF-κB activation by DHMEQ shortly after PITx suppresses HMGB1, which activates DCs and strengthens the magnitude of alloimmune responses; this permits long-term islet allograft acceptance, even in case of fewer islet allografts.
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