Identifying Subphenotypes of Antibody-Mediated Rejection in Kidney Transplants

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The key lesions in antibody-mediated kidney transplant rejection (ABMR) are microcirculation inflammation (peritubular capillaritis and/or glomerulitis lesions, abbreviated “pg”) and glomerular double contours (cg lesions). We used these features to explore subphenotypes in 164 indication biopsies with ABMR-related diagnoses: 137 ABMR (109 pure and 28 mixed with T cell–mediated rejection [TCMR]) and 27 transplant glomerulopathy (TG), identified from prospective multicenter studies. The lesions indicated three ABMR subphenotypes: pgABMR, cgABMR, and pgcgABMR. Principal component analysis confirmed these subphenotypes and showed that TG can be reclassified as pgcgABMR (n = 17) or cgABMR (n = 10). ABMR-related biopsies included 45 pgABMR, 90 pgcgABMR, and 25 cgABMR, with four unclassifiable. Dominating all time intervals was the subphenotype pgcgABMR. The pgABMR subphenotype presented earliest (median <2 years), frequently mixed with TCMR, and was most associated with nonadherence. The cgABMR subphenotype presented late (median 9 years). Subphenotypes differed in their molecular changes, with pgABMR having the most histologic–molecular discrepancies (i.e. potential errors). Donor-specific antibody (DSA) was not identified in 29% of pgcgABMR and 46% of cgABMR, but failure rates and molecular findings were similar to cases where DSA was known to be positive. Thus, ABMR presents distinct subphenotypes, early pg-dominant, late cg-dominant, and combined pgcg phenotype, differing in time, molecular features, accompanying TCMR, HLA antibody, and probability of nonadherence.

Antibody-mediated rejection in kidney transplant biopsies presents with three distinct and clinically relevant subphenotypes that differ in time, molecular features, accompanying T cell–mediated rejection, HLA antibody phenotype, and probability of nonadherence.

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