Reproduction, Fertility and Development Reproduction, Fertility and Development Society
Vertebrate reproductive science and technology


N. Klymiuk A , A. Baehr A , B. Kessler A , M. Kurome A , A. Wuensch A , N. Herbach B , R. Wanke B , H. Nagashima C and E. Wolf A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Chair for Molecular Animal Breeding and Biotechnology, Gene Center, LMU Munich, Munich, Germany;

B Institute of Veterinary Pathology, LMU Munich, Munich, Germany;

C Laboratory of Developmental Engineering, Meiji University, Kawasaki, Japan

Reproduction, Fertility and Development 22(1) 370-370
Published: 8 December 2009


Among the candidate organs or tissues for pig-to-primate xenotransplantation, pancreatic islets are probably closest to clinical application. Rejection of islet xenografts occurs mainly by cellular mechanisms; that is, T cells. A candidate molecule to protect porcine islets against the attack by human T cells is CTLA-4Ig, which represents the T-cell-inactivating extracellular domain of the human CTLA-4 protein linked to a region of the human immunoglobulin (Ig). This recombinant soluble fusion protein binds to CD80 and CD86, blocking their interaction with CD28 and thereby inhibiting T-cell proliferation and T-cell-dependent antibody production. The survival of human, rabbit, and porcine islets after transplantation into streptozotocin-treated diabetic mice was found to be prolonged after treatment with CTLA-4Ig. In order to facilitate local protection of pig-to-primate islet xenografts, we generated transgenic pigs expressing LEA29Y, a modification of the original CTLA-4Ig with higher potency, specifically in the pancreatic islets. In LEA29Y, 2 amino acids in the binding region of CTLA-4 are altered. The LEA29Y coding sequence was placed under the control of the 1.3-kb core promoter from the porcine insulin gene (INS), and the polyadenylation signal from the bovine growth hormone gene (GH) was added. The construct was linked with a floxed neomycin resistance cassette and transfected into porcine fetal fibroblasts. The cells were selected and stable clones were pooled and used as donors for nuclear transfer. After electrofusion and activation, embryos were transferred to 2 synchronized gilts; 8 piglets survived to term with 7 of them carrying the transgene. Southern blot analysis suggested that the founder animals contain 1 or 2 independent integration sites. Four founders were autopsied at the age of 3 months to evaluate expression of LEA29Y in the pancreatic islets by immunohistochemistry. The ratio of immunohistochemically stained islet cell profiles to all islet cell profiles in the islet profiles visible in the sections was estimated. The staining intensity was also estimated qualitatively, by grading from weak to strong immunoreactivity (brown color, using DAB as chromogen). Although 2 founders exhibited single LEA29Y-positive islet cells in some pancreatic islet profiles, the other 2 founders showed a high percentage of strongly positive cells in all islet profiles examined, suggesting beta-cell specific expression. Fibroblasts from the latter 2 founders are currently being used for recloning to generate multiple pigs with constitutive expression of LEA29Y in the pancreatic islets. The protective effect of this strategy will be tested by transplanting LEA29Y-expressing porcine islets in diabetic mouse models with a humanized immune system and in diabetic nonhuman primate models.

Supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (FOR 535).

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