Background. Intestinal transplantation is unduly complicated by the nontolerogenic properties of the gut-associated lymphoid tissue. Because simultaneous graft irradiation and bone marrow infusion significantly prolong the survival of the small bowel transplanted animal, our objective was to determine the functional motility effects of the immune modulating, graft irradiation procedure in the presence and absence of tacrolimus immunosuppression. Methods. Four groups of syngeneic orthotopic small bowel transplanted animals were studied 48 hours after operations (untreated, tacrolimus, ex vivo graft irradiation, and tacrolimus + irradiation) and compared with controls. Histologic analysis was performed for mucosal apoptosis and neutrophilic infiltration into the muscularis externa. Gastrointestinal in vivo transit and in vitro circular muscle strip contractions were quantified in response to bethanechol (0.3-300 μmol/L). Results. Graft irradiation ex vivo alone or in the presence of tacrolimus significantly increases (> 10-fold) the number of apoptotic mucosal cells after transplantation. Functional measurements showed that transplantation resulted in a significant delay in gastrointestinal transit and a decrease in muscle strip contractility. Tacrolimus and graft irradiation significantly ameliorated the transplant-induced dysfunction. Conclusions. Given the endowed propensity of mucosal regeneration, the immunologic and functional benefits of ex vivo graft irradiation appear to outweigh the detrimental effects to the mucosa.
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