Immunosuppression and monocyte subsets

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Monocytes are critical in innate immunity and transplantation. Three monocyte subsets exist, CD14++CD16−, CD14++CD16+ and CD14+CD16++ monocytes; cell counts of CD14++CD16+ and CD14+CD16++ monocytes are increased in pre-transplant chronic kidney disease. Interestingly, the effect of immunosuppressants on monocyte heterogeneity has not been well studied.


The impact of immunosuppressants on monocyte subsets was studied: (i) in 152 kidney transplant (KTx) recipients to characterize subset distribution in the steady state, (ii) in patients after autologous (n = 10) versus allogenic (n = 9) haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) to analyse monocyte subset development and (iii) in an in vitro model to compare the effect of immunosuppressants on monocyte subset biology.


In KTx, steroid intake was associated with higher total, CD14++CD16− and CD14++CD16+ monocyte counts, but fewer CD14+CD16++ monocytes, whereas intake of mycophenolate, calcineurin inhibitors (CNI) and mammalian target of rapamycin inhibitors (mTORI) did not affect monocyte (subset) counts. In linear regression analysis, only steroid intake was a significant determinant of monocyte (subset) counts: total monocytes (β = 0.331; P < 0.001), CD14++CD16− monocytes (β = 0.374; P < 0.001), CD14++CD16+ monocytes (β = 0.221; P = 0.010) and CD14+CD16++ monocytes (β = −0.169; P = 0.049). After HSCT, CD14++CD16− monocytes were the first to arise, followed by CD14++CD16+ and later by CD14+CD16++ monocytes. Monocyte subset distribution did not differ significantly in patients after allogenic compared with autologous transplantation. CNI, mycophenolate and methotrexate did not influence monocyte subset development, but modified surface receptor expression (CCR2, HLA-DR, ENG, TEK and TLR4) in allogenic HSCT.


Chronic low-dose steroids are associated with monocytosis and higher counts of CD14++CD16− and of proinflammatory CD14++CD16+ monocytes.

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