Complement dependent early immunological responses during ex vivo xenoperfusion of hCD46/HLA-E double transgenic pig forelimbs with human blood

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Besides α1,3-galactosyltransferase gene (GGTA1) knockout, several transgene combinations to prevent pig-to-human xenograft rejection are currently being investigated. In this study, the potential of combined overexpression of human CD46 and HLA-E to prevent complement- and NK-cell-mediated xenograft rejection was tested in an ex vivo pig-to-human xenoperfusion model.


α1,3-Galactosyltransferase knockout heterozygous, hCD46/HLA-E double transgenic (transgenic) as well as wild-type pig forelimbs were ex vivo perfused with whole, heparinized human and autologous pig blood, respectively. Blood samples were analyzed for the production of porcine and/or human inflammatory cytokines as well as complement activation products. Biopsy samples were examined for deposition of human and porcine C3b/c, C4b/c, and C6 as well as CD62E (E-selectin) and CD106 (VCAM-1) expression. Apoptosis was measured in the porcine muscle tissue using TUNEL assays. Finally, the formation of thrombin–antithrombin (TAT) complexes was measured in EDTA plasma samples.


No hyperacute rejection was seen in this model. Extremity perfusions lasted for up to 12 h without increase in vascular resistance and were terminated due to continuous small blood losses. Plasma levels of porcine cytokines IL1β, IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, TNF-α, and MCP-1 as well as human complement activation markers C3a (P = 0.0002), C5a (P = 0.004), and soluble C5b-9 (P = 0.03) were lower in blood perfused through transgenic as compared to wild-type limbs. Human C3b/c, C4b/c, and C6 as well as CD62E and CD106 were deposited in tissue of wild-type limbs, but significantly lower levels (P < 0.0001) of C3b/c, C4b/c, and C6 deposition as well as CD62E and CD106 expression were detected in transgenic limbs perfused with human blood. Transgenic porcine tissue was protected from xenoperfusion-induced apoptosis (P < 0.0001). Finally, TAT levels were significantly lower (P < 0.0001) in transgenic limb as compared to wild-type limb xenoperfusions.


Transgenic hCD46/HLA-E expression clearly reduced humoral xenoresponses since all, the terminal pathway of complement activation, endothelial cell activation, muscle cell apoptosis, inflammatory cytokine production, as well as coagulation activation, were all downregulated. Overall, this model represents a useful tool to study early immunological responses during pig-to-human vascularized xenotransplantation in the absence of hyperacute rejection.

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