IFN-λ therapy prevents severe gastrointestinal graft-versus-host disease

Andrea S. Henden, Motoko Koyama, Renee J. Robb, Adriana Forero, Rachel D. Kuns, Karshing Chang, Kathleen S. Ensbey, Antiopi Varelias, Stephen H. Kazakoff, Nicole Waddell, Andrew D. Clouston, Rabina Giri, Jakob Begun, Bruce R. Blazar, Mariapia A. Degli-Esposti, Sergei V. Kotenko, Steven W. Lane, Kate L. Bowerman, Ram Savan, Philip HugenholtzKate H. Gartlan, Geoffrey R. Hill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Immunopathology and intestinal stem cell (ISC) loss in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract is the prima facie manifestation of graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) and is responsible for significant mortality after allogeneic bone marrow transplantation (BMT). Approaches to prevent GVHD to date focus on immune suppression. Here, we identify interferon-λ (IFN-λ; interleukin-28 [IL-28]/IL-29) as a key protector of GI GVHD immunopathology, notably within the ISC compartment. Ifnlr1−/− mice displayed exaggerated GI GVHD and mortality independent of Paneth cells and alterations to the microbiome. Ifnlr1−/− intestinal organoid growth was significantly impaired, and targeted Ifnlr1 deficiency exhibited effects intrinsic to recipient Lgr5+ ISCs and natural killer cells. PEGylated recombinant IL-29 (PEG-rIL-29) treatment of naive mice enhanced Lgr5+ ISC numbers and organoid growth independent of both IL-22 and type I IFN and modulated proliferative and apoptosis gene sets in Lgr5+ ISCs. PEG-rIL-29 treatment improved survival, reduced GVHD severity, and enhanced epithelial proliferation and ISC-derived organoid growth after BMT. The preservation of ISC numbers in response to PEG-rIL-29 after BMT occurred both in the presence and absence of IFN-λ–signaling in recipient natural killer cells. IFN-λ is therefore an attractive and rapidly testable approach to prevent ISC loss and immunopathology during GVHD.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)722-737
Number of pages16
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 26 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Immunology
  • Hematology
  • Cell Biology


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