IMPACT OF DONOR-SPECIFIC ANTIBODIES ON CHRONIC REJECTION OCCURRENCE AND GRAFT LOSS IN RENAL TRANSPLANTATION: POSTTRANSPLANT ANALYSIS USING FLOW CYTOMETRIC TECHNIQUES1


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Abstract

Background.Improvements in immunosuppressive therapy have greatly reduced acute rejection (ARj) episodes, ensuring better short-term graft outcome, but have not modified long-term survival in renal transplantation. It is now well accepted that chronic rejection (CRj) can be determined by both immune and/or nonimmune mechanisms. The aim of this study was to evaluate the importance of the posttransplant humoral immune response towards mismatched HLA graft antigens in CRj occurrence and graft outcome.Methods.Serum samples from 120 nonpresensitized renal transplant recipients were prospectively screened for 1 year after surgery by means of flow cytometry cross-match (FCXM) and FlowPRA beads (microbeads coated with purified HLA class I and class II antigens) assays. All transplants were followed-up for 2 years or until graft removal.Results.FCXM monitoring identified donor-specific antibodies (DS-Abs) in 29 (24.2%) of 120 transplanted patients. Correlation with clinical data highlighted a higher incidence of ARj in DS-Abs–positive patients compared to negative patients (62% vs. 13%, P <0.00001). Furthermore, graft failure occurred more frequently among FCXM-positive patients than among negative patients (34% vs. 1%, P <0.00001). The deleterious effect of DS-Abs on graft function was confirmed by serum creatinine levels 2 years after transplantation. These were in fact higher in subjects producing DS-Abs than in subjects with only ARj (mean creatinine: 2.5±1.3 mg/dL vs.1.7±0.5 mg/dL, P =0.04). FlowPRA analysis of DS-Ab HLA specificity highlighted the presence of anti-HLA class I antibodies in 85% of FCXM-positive patients, who also presented with a higher incidence of HLA-B mismatches than FCXM-negative patients (1.23±0.66 vs. 0.92±0.59, P =0.02).Conclusions.Flow cytometric techniques are precious tools for investigating the activation of the humoral response against HLA antigens of the graft in renal transplantation. DS-Abs production has a worse impact on organ function and survival than ARj episodes. These findings represent further proof of the threat posed by DS-Abs on long-term graft function and draw attention to the need for a specific immunosuppressive therapy aimed at counteracting the different kinds of immune activation toward graft.

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