Allospecific CD154+ T Cells Associate with Rejection Risk After Pediatric Liver Transplantation

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Antigen-specific T cells, which express CD154 rapidly, but remain untested in alloimmunity, were measured with flow cytometry in 16-h MLR of 58 identically-immunosuppressed children with liver transplantation (LTx), to identify Rejectors (who had experienced biopsy-proven rejection within 60 days posttransplantation). Thirty-one children were sampled once, cross-sectionally. Twenty-seven children were sampled longitudinally, pre-LTx, and at 1–60 and 61–200 days after LTx. Results were correlated with proliferative alloresponses measured by CFSE-dye dilution (n = 23), and CTLA4, a negative T-cell costimulator, which antagonizes CD154-mediated effects (n = 31). In cross-sectional observations, logistic regression and leave-one-out cross-validation identified donor-specific, CD154 + T-cytotoxic (Tc)-memory cells as best associated with rejection outcomes. In the longitudinal cohort, (1) the association between CD154 + Tc-memory cells and rejection outcomes was replicated with sensitivity/specificity 92.3%/84.6% for observations at 1–60 days, and (2) elevated pre-LTx CD154 + Tc-memory cell responses were associated with significantly increased incidence (p = 0.02) and hazard (HR = 7.355) of rejection in survival/proportional hazard analysis. CD154 expression correlated with proliferative alloresponses (r = 0.835, p = 7.1e-07), and inversely with CTLA4 expression of allospecific CD154 + Tc-memory cells (r = −0.706, p = 3.0e-05). Allospecific CD154 + T-helper-memory cells, not CD154 + Tc-memory, were inhibited by increasing Tacrolimus concentrations (p = 0.026). Collectively, allospecific CD154 + T cells provide an estimate of rejection risk in children with LTx.

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