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Title: Essential amino acid depletion by embryonic stem cells as a mechanism of immune privilege
Author: Ichiryu, Naoki
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2013
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Mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs) are capable of differentiating into any somatic cell type and are known to display fragile immune privilege in vivo and in vitro. The extent to which the depletion of essential amino acids (EAAs) by ESCs contributes to this phenomenon was investigated. ESCs were found to express various enzymes capable of catabolising EAAs within the culture medium. In particular, depletion of threonine, valine and lysine was found to have significant impact on T cell proliferation and differentiation, biasing their polarisation towards a FoxP3+ T regulatory (Treg) phenotype. Supplementing ESC conditioned medium with these three EAAs alone rescued normal T cell proliferation, whereas artificially limiting their availability was sufficient to induce Treg cell differentiation to a level equivalent to general EAA depletion. The pattern of EAA catabolism by mouse ESC was shared by induced pluripotent stem cells, while mouse melanoma cell lines and human ESCs displayed distinct patterns of EAA depletion. The cytosolic branched chain aminotransferase enzyme, Bcat1, catalyses the first step of branched chain amino acid catabolism (isoleucine, leucine and valine), and is highly expressed by both mouse and human ESCs. The contribution of this enzyme to the establishment of acquired immune privilege by ESC-derived tissues was, therefore, investigated. ESC lines were derived from mice lacking Bcat1 activity and were characterised. Bcat1−/− ESC lines displayed no difference to their wildtype counterparts (Bcat1LoxP) in terms of in vitro proliferation and their capacity to form teratomas in vivo. Furthermore, the loss of Bcat1 function had little impact on the inhibition of T cell proliferation in culture, ability to induce Treg cell commitment or their ability to prevent rejection by T cell receptor transgenic recipients, suggesting the minimal contribution of Bcat1 to the depletion of EAAs by ESCs. In conclusion, EAA depletion by mouse ESC may provide a mechanistic explanation for the previously described immune-suppressive capacity of ESC.
Supervisor: Fairchild, Paul J. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Medical Sciences ; Stem cells (clinical sciences) ; Biology (medical sciences) ; Immunology ; mouse embryonic stem cells ; immune privilege ; transplantation tolerance