The role of cell-mediated cytotoxicity in the complex pathophysiology of graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) has remained poorly defined for several decades. We transplanted T cells from Fas-ligand (FasL)-defective and perforin-deficient mutant donor mice into lethally irradiated MHC-matched allogeneic recipient mice to characterize the role of cell-mediated cytotoxicity in GVHD. Although recipients of allogeneic FasL-defective donor T cells underwent severe GVHD-associated cachexia, they exhibited only minimal signs of hepatic and cutaneous GVHD pathology. Recipients of perforin-deficient allogeneic donor T cells developed signs of acute GVHD, but the time of onset was significantly delayed. These findings demonstrate that Fas-mediated anti-recipient cytotoxicity may be critical for the development of hepatic and cutaneous GVHD, but is not required for GVHD-associated cachexia. In addition, perforin-mediated anti-recipient cytotoxicity appears to play an important role in the kinetics of GVHD pathophysiology, but is not required for GVHD-associated tissue damage.

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