BACKGROUND. Nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) is a key molecule in alloimmune responses, however, its role in tolerance induction is not clear. We have previously reported that dehydroxymethylepoxyquinomycin (DHMEQ), a novel NF-κB inhibitor, prolongs cardiac allograft survival. In this study, we evaluated the immunomodulatory effects of DHMEQ when combined with a donor-specific blood transfusion (DST), and assessed whether the treatment induces tolerance in a mouse heart transplantation model. METHODS. DST (20×10 splenocytes) was given intravenously at day -7. DHMEQ (30 mg/kg/day) was administered intraperitoneally for 14 days after DST. Graft survival and histology were evaluated. The underlying mechanisms of immunomodulation by DST and DHMEQ treatments were investigated by assessing alloimmune responses after transplantation. RESULTS. In fully mismatched H2-to-H2 heart transplants, DST alone prolonged allograft median survival time to 15 days, whereas when DST was combined with DHMEQ treatment, the graft median survival time was prolonged to 39.5 days. When the donor-recipient strain combination was reversed, that is, H2-to-H2, heart transplants were accepted (>150 days survival) in more than 60% of recipients treated with a DST and DHMEQ, whereas control allografts were all rejected within 8 days. The combined therapy markedly inhibited immune responses by both the direct and indirect allorecognition pathways mainly attributed to promotion of activation-induced cell death and Treg generation. CONCLUSIONS. Our results demonstrate the distinctive ability of NF-κB inhibition in combination with donor alloantigen to promote transplantation tolerance through multiple cellular mechanisms.
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