Author: Sarah Louise Brice
Brice, Sarah Louise, 2010 Regional Immunosuppression for Corneal Transplantation, Flinders University, School of Medicine
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Corneal transplantation is performed to restore vision or to relieve pain in patients with damaged or diseased corneas. However, approximately 40% of corneal allografts fail after 10 years. The most common cause of graft failure is irreversible immunological rejection, primarily mediated by CD4+ T cells, despite the topical application of glucocorticosteroids. The aim of this project was to investigate the anatomic site of antigen presentation during corneal transplantation in the rat, by using a lentiviral vector to express an anti-CD4 antibody fragment at potential sites of antigen presentation, including the donor corneal endothelium, the anterior segment of the eye and the cervical lymph nodes. Dual-gene lentiviral vectors were constructed by inserting the 2A self-processing sequence between two transgenes. This allowed expression of two transgenes within a single open reading frame. In vitro characterisation of the dual-gene vectors was performed in cell culture experiments, which showed that transgenic proteins were expressed at lower levels from dual-gene vectors compared to the expression from single-gene vectors and expression was lowest when the transgene was situated downstream of the 2A self-processing sequence. To locate the anatomic site of antigen presentation during corneal transplantation in rats, a lentiviral vector carrying an anti-CD4 antibody fragment was delivered to the corneal endothelium either immediately prior to corneal transplantation by ex vivo transduction of the donor corneas, or 5 days prior to corneal transplantation by anterior chamber injection into both the recipient and the donor rats. A separate group of recipient rats received intranodal injections of the lentiviral vector carrying an anti-CD4 antibody fragment into the cervical lymph nodes 2 days prior to corneal transplantation. Another group of rats underwent bilateral lymphadenectomy of the cervical lymph nodes 7 days prior to corneal transplantation. Corneal allografts were scored daily for opacity, inflammation and neovascularisation. Expression of the anti-CD4 antibody fragment from transduced tissues was detected using flow cytometry and polymerase chain reaction. Modest, but significant prolongation of corneal allograft survival was experienced by rats that received ex vivo transduction of the donor corneas with a lentiviral vector carrying an anti-CD4 antibody fragment immediately prior to corneal transplantation, but all grafts did eventually reject. Anterior chamber injection of the lentiviral vector carrying the anti-CD4 antibody fragment 5 days prior to corneal transplantation into both recipient and donor eyes did not prolong allograft survival. Intranodal injection of a lentiviral vector carrying an anti-CD4 antibody fragment did not prolong the survival of the corneal allografts, nor did bilateral lymphadenectomy of the cervical lymph nodes 7 days prior to corneal transplantation. Neither expression of the anti-CD4 antibody fragment in the cervical lymph nodes nor the removal of these nodes was able to prolong corneal allograft survival in rats, suggesting that T cell sensitisation could potentially occur elsewhere in the body. However, expression of the anti-CD4 antibody fragment from the donor corneal endothelium was able to prolong corneal allograft survival, suggesting that some antigen presentation might occur within the anterior segment of the eye. Based on the findings described in this thesis and those of others, I propose that antigen presentation in the rat occurs within anterior segment of the eye and within the secondary lymphoid tissues such as the cervical lymph nodes, and that inhibiting antigen presentation at one of these sites will delay graft rejection. However, to completely abolish antigen presentation during corneal transplantation in the rat, I hypothesise that antigen presentation within both the anterior segment of the eye and within the secondary lymphoid tissues must be inhibited.
Keywords: corneal transplantation,gene therapy,lentivirus,immunology
Subject: Medicine thesis
Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
School: School of Medicine
Supervisor: Prof Keryn Williams