Identification and characterization of the antigen presenting cell in rat autoimmune myocarditis: evidence of bone marrow derivation and non-requirement for MHC class I compatibility with pathogenic T cells.
In the rat, autoimmune myocarditis can be produced by the infusion of activated myosin peptide specific, CD4(+), class II restricted, effector T cells. Whether antigen presenting cells (APCs), which interact with these effector T cells in the heart, are a fixed population of cells (resident dendritic, macrophage, or endothelial cells), or a dynamic bone marrow derived population has not yet been demonstrated in vivo. To study this question, bone marrow chimeras were generated using inbred Brown Norway (BN) rats, which are resistant to autoimmune myocarditis, and transplanting them after lethal irradiation with (LewisxBN) F1 bone marrow. BN rats differ at both MHC loci from the susceptible inbred Lewis rats. Two months after bone marrow transplantation, chimeric animals received Lewis T cells specific for a myocarditogenic peptide antigen. To characterize the cardiac APCs, immunohistochemistry using a battery of antibodies including Lewis-specific and broadly reactive antibodies for both MHC class I and class II, was performed on chimeric hearts, with and without infused Lewis T cells, and non-transplanted BN control hearts.All chimeric rats infused with allogeneic (Lewis), anti-cardiac myosin peptide effector T cells displayed the lesions of myocarditis. Myocarditis was not present in non-transplanted BN controls given either Lewis or F1 derived myocarditogenic T cells, nor in chimeric animals which did not receive myocarditogenic T cells, thus excluding graft vs host disease as the explanation for the inflammation in chimeric hearts with myocarditis. Marrow derived cells expressing both Lewis class I and class II MHC molecules were demonstrated on perivascular cells in the myocardium of all chimeric animals, and on infiltrating cells in chimeric animals with myocarditis. Cells expressing Lewis-specific MHC antigens were not detected in the non-transplanted BN controls. Furthermore, immunohistochemistry using broadly reactive antibodies demonstrated MHC class II on perivascular cells with a dendritic morphology in all hearts but not on endothelial cells or cardiac myocytes. These results support the hypothesis that in vivo, cardiac APCs which result in MHC class II restricted, T cell induced myocarditis are a dynamic bone marrow derived population and not a fixed population.In order to address the potential requirement of MHC class I for the initiation of autoimmune myocarditis, myocarditogenic T cells derived from either Lewis or DA(RP) rats were infused into a member of the other strain. These strains share common MHC class II genes but differ at the MHC class I loci. Myocarditis identical to that produced in the syngeneic animal was successfully transferred by the MHC class I mismatched T cells, but only after the recipient animal's native immune system was mildly suppressed. These results further support the primary role for professional antigen presentation via MHC class II restriction to the effector T cells at the initiation of autoimmune myocarditis in the heart.Together, these experiments confirm that activated effector T cells, in order to produce myocarditis, require MHC class II compatible APCs in the heart, that these APCs are bone marrow derived, and will endogenously take up and present local antigens in the target organ after bone marrow reconstitution.