Fetal survival during gestation implies that tolerance mechanisms suppress the maternal immune response to paternally inherited alloantigens. Here we show that the inhibitory T cell costimulatory molecule, programmed death ligand 1 (PDL1), has an important role in conferring fetomaternal tolerance in an allogeneic pregnancy model. Blockade of PDL1 signaling during murine pregnancy resulted in increased rejection rates of allogeneic concepti but not syngeneic concepti. Fetal rejection was T cell– but not B cell–dependent because PDL1-specific antibody treatment caused fetal rejection in B cell–deficient but not in RAG-1 –deficient females. Blockade of PDL1 also resulted in a significant increase in the frequency of IFN-γ–producing lymphocytes in response to alloantigen in an ELISPOT assay and higher IFN-γ levels in placental homogenates by ELISA. Finally, PDL1-deficient females exhibited decreased allogeneic fetal survival rates as compared with littermate and heterozygote controls and showed evidence of expansion of T helper type 1 immune responses in vivo. These results provide the first evidence that PDL1 is involved in fetomaternal tolerance.
We have recently shown that expression of the enzyme indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO) during murine pregnancy is required to prevent rejection of the allogeneic fetus by maternal T cells. In addition to their role in pregnancy, IDO-expressing cells are widely distributed in primary and secondary lymphoid organs. Here we show that monocytes that have differentiated under the influence of macrophage colony-stimulating factor acquire the ability to suppress T cell proliferation in vitro via rapid and selective degradation of tryptophan by IDO. IDO was induced in macrophages by a synergistic combination of the T cell–derived signals IFN-γ and CD40-ligand. Inhibition of IDO with the 1-methyl analogue of tryptophan prevented macrophage-mediated suppression. Purified T cells activated under tryptophan-deficient conditions were able to synthesize protein, enter the cell cycle, and progress normally through the initial stages of G1, including upregulation of IL-2 receptor and synthesis of IL-2. However, in the absence of tryptophan, cell cycle progression halted at a mid-G1 arrest point. Restoration of tryptophan to arrested cells was not sufficient to allow further cell cycle progression nor was costimulation via CD28. T cells could exit the arrested state only if a second round of T cell receptor signaling was provided in the presence of tryptophan. These data reveal a novel mechanism by which antigen-presenting cells can regulate T cell activation via tryptophan catabolism. We speculate that expression of IDO by certain antigen presenting cells in vivo allows them to suppress unwanted T cell responses.