Chemotherapy-induced intestinal injury promotes Galectin-9-driven modulation of T cell function

Suze A Jansen, Alessandro Cutilli, Coco de Koning, Marliek van Hoesel, Leire Saiz Sierra, Stefan Nierkens, Michal Mokry, Edward E S Nieuwenhuis, Alan M Hanash, Enric Mocholi, Paul J Coffer, Caroline A Lindemans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The intestine is vulnerable to chemotherapy-induced toxicity due to its high epithelial proliferative rate, making gut toxicity an off-target effect in several cancer treatments, including conditioning regimens for allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (allo-HCT). In allo-HCT, intestinal damage is an important factor in the development of Graft-versus-Host Disease (GVHD), an immune complication in which donor immune cells attack the recipient's tissues. Here, we developed a novel human intestinal organoid-based 3D model system to study the direct effect of chemotherapy-induced intestinal epithelial damage on T cell behavior. Chemotherapy treatment using busulfan, fludarabine, and clofarabine led to damage responses in organoids resulting in increased T cell migration, activation, and proliferation in ex- vivo co-culture assays. We identified galectin-9 (Gal-9), a beta-galactoside-binding lectin released by damaged organoids, as a key molecule mediating T cell responses to damage. Increased levels of Gal-9 were also found in the plasma of allo-HCT patients who later developed acute GVHD, supporting the predictive value of the model system in the clinical setting. This study highlights the potential contribution of chemotherapy-induced epithelial damage to the pathogenesis of intestinal GVHD through direct effects on T cell activation and trafficking promoted by galectin-9.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2023


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