Preformed complement-activating low-level donor-specific antibody predicts early antibody-mediated rejection in renal allografts.
BACKGROUND.: Donor-specific anti-HLA antibodies (DSA) are a major cause of alloimmune injury. Transplant recipients with negative complement-dependent cytotoxic crossmatch (CDC-XM) and donor cell-based flow cytometric crossmatch (flow-XM) but low level DSA (i.e., by Luminex) have worse outcomes compared with nonsensitized patients. The aim of this study was to establish whether complement-activating ability in this low-level DSA, present before transplantation, as determined by this technique is important in dictating pathogenicity. METHODS.: We retrospectively studied 52 patients with preformed DSA detected by single-antigen flow cytometric fluorescent beads (SAFBs). Patients were transplanted using a steroid-sparing regimen consisting of alemtuzumab induction, 1 week of corticosteroids and tacrolimus monotherapy.Fifteen (29%) of 52 patients experienced antibody-mediated rejection (AMR), whereas 37 (71%) patients did not. There were no demographic differences between patients with AMR and those without. Pretransplant sera were retested using a modified (SAFB) assay, which detects the presence of the complement fragment C4d as a result of DSA-induced complement activation. RESULTS.: C4d+DSA were detected in 10 (19%) of 52 patients. Biopsy-proven AMR occurred in 7 (70%) of the 10 patients with C4d+DSA and in 8 (19%) of 42 patients with C4d-DSA. AMR-free survival was worse in patients with C4d+DSA (P<0.001). CONCLUSIONS.: The ability of preformed, low-level, DSA to trigger C4d fixation in vitro in patients with negative conventional crossmatch tests is predictive for AMR. C4d SAFB is potentially a powerful tool for risk stratification prior to transplantation and may allow identification of unacceptable donor antigens, or patients who may require enhanced immunosuppression.