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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BackgroundIn 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evaluated the effects of minimized calcineurin inhibitor (CNI) on DSA development to assess the validity of minimized/withdrawn immunosuppression.MethodsWe retrospectively examined 66 patients who underwent pediatric LT at our institution between July 1991 and October 2013.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.ResultsThe 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.ConclusionsCNI 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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