Background: Tissue remodeling depends on mesenchymal cells (fibroblasts and myofibroblasts) and is a prominent feature of chronic renal-transplant rejection. It is not known whether the mesenchymal cells that participate in remodeling originate locally or from circulating precursor cells.
Methods: We obtained biopsy specimens of renal allografts from six male recipients of an allograft from a female donor, four female recipients of an allograft from a male donor, two male recipients of an allograft from a male donor, and two female recipients of an allograft from a female donor. All the allografts were undergoing chronic rejection. All but two specimens were obtained within six months after transplantation. We used immunohistochemical methods to identify mesenchymal cells with smooth-muscle alpha-actin and in situ hybridization to identify mesenchymal cells with Y-chromosome DNA.
Results: No Y-chromosome bodies were identified in the case of the two renal-allograft specimens in which both the donor and the recipient were female. In the case of the two renal-allograft specimens in which both the donor and the recipient were male, approximately 40 percent of mesenchymal cells contained a Y-chromosome body. In the case of the six specimens in which the donor was female and the recipient was male, a mean (+/-SD) of 34+/-16 percent of mesenchymal cells in the neointima, 38+/-12 percent of such cells in the adventitia, and 30+/-7 percent of such cells in the interstitium contained the Y-chromosomal marker, indicating that they originated from the recipient rather than the donor. In the case of the four renal-allograft specimens in which the donor was male and the recipient was female, the respective values were 24+/-15 percent, 33+/-9 percent, and 23+/-8 percent, indicating a persistent population of donor mesenchymal cells.
Conclusions: The presence of mesenchymal cells of host origin in the vascular and interstitial compartments of renal allografts undergoing chronic rejection provides evidence that a circulating mesenchymal precursor cell has the potential to migrate to areas of inflammation.