Corticosteroids are the first line therapy for acute graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). However, the outcome of steroid refractory GVHD (SR-GVHD) is poor due to a lack of effective treatments. The development of therapies for SR-GVHD is limited by an incomplete understanding of its pathophysiology partly because of the absence of clinically relevant animal models of SR-GVHD. Here we addressed the need for a SR-GVHD animal model by developing both MHC matched multiple minor histocompatibility antigens (miHAs) mismatched and MHC mismatched haploidentical murine models of SR-GVHD. We demonstrate that animals can develop SR-GVHD regardless of whether steroids are initiated early or late post allogeneic bone marrow transplantation (allo-BMT). In general, we observed increased GVHD specific histopathological damage of target organs in SR-GVHD animals relative to steroid responsive animals. Interestingly, we found no significant differences in donor T cell characteristics between steroid refractory and responsive animals suggesting that donor T cell independent mechanisms may play more prominent roles in the pathogenesis of SR-GVHD than was considered previously.
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