Impact of the Trough Level of Calcineurin Inhibitor on the Prevalence of Donor-Specific Human Leukocyte Antigen Antibodies During Long-Term Follow-Up After Pediatric Liver Transplantation: Antibody Strength and Complement-Binding Ability

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In pediatric patients, long-term immunosuppression after liver transplantation (LT) is typically minimal. However, posttransplant donor-specific HLA antibodies (DSAs) may be prevalent under these conditions. Here, we evaluated the effects of minimized calcineurin inhibitor (CNI) on DSA development to assess the validity of minimized/withdrawn immunosuppression.


We retrospectively examined 66 patients who underwent pediatric LT at our institution between July 1991 and October 2013. Patients were divided into 2 groups based on the CNI trough level. The cutoff trough levels were 3 and 30 ng/mL for tacrolimus and cyclosporine, respectively. Luminex single-antigen bead assays were performed, and the cutoff for a positive reaction was set at a mean fluorescence intensity (MFI) of at least 1000.


The mean recipient ages at the time of LT were 29.1 and 77.2 months for the low and regular CNI groups, respectively (P = 0.0007). Univariate logistic regression analysis revealed that recipient age at LT younger than 3 years (P = 0.0099) and low CNI (P < 0.0001) were significantly associated with DSA development. In multivariate analysis, low CNI was an independent risk factor of DSA development (P = 0.0011). Of 15 high-MFI DSAs, 3 were anti-DR, and 12 were anti-DQ. Two of 3 anti-DR DSAs and 11 of 12 anti-DQ DSAs had complement-binding ability and high MFIs.


CNI minimization was an independent risk factor for posttransplant DSA during long-term follow-up after pediatric LT. Adjusting CNI to appropriate levels is a safe first step to prevent the immunological effects of DSA.

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