Background: Deposition of C4d in peritubular capillaries (PTCs) has been shown to be a sensitive marker for antibody-mediated (humoral) rejection in renal transplant biopsies. Some studies also suggest that C4d in PTCs is specific for humoral rejection or, at least, for the presence of donor-specific antibodies. However, in other studies, PTC C4d deposits were noted in more than 40% of renal transplant biopsies performed for graft dysfunction and capillary C4d deposition in heart transplants may result from ischemic injury.
Methods: To test the specificity of C4d staining as a marker for acute humoral rejection ACR in renal allografts, indirect immunofluorescence using a monoclonal anti-C4d antibody and a fluorescein-isothiocyanate-conjugated secondary antibody was performed on cryostat sections of 90 renal transplant biopsies, including 35 pairs of preimplantation and 1-hr postreperfusion biopsies of the same graft, postreperfusion biopsies of 12 additional grafts, and 8 positive controls (biopsies with known C4d-positive AHR). Eighteen grafts were cadaveric, 17 grafts were liviing-related, and 12 grafts were living-unrelated (excluding controls). Included in these grafts were 13 grafts that developed AHR 3 to 34 days posttransplantation.
Results: Only 2 of 82 perioperative biopsies showed C4d staining in PTCs. Both perioperative biopsies were postreperfusion biopsies of grafts diagnosed with AHR 5 and 34 days posttransplantation, respectively, and, in each case, the recipient had been treated with plasmapheresis before transplantation because of a positive crossmatch (cytotoxic and flow cytometric) and continued to have a weakly positive flow crossmatch at the time of transplantation. In one biopsy, C4d staining was focal, and in the other biopsy, it was diffuse; in both biopsies, C4d staining was relatively mild (1+ on a 0-4+ scale). No C4d staining was noted on preimplantation biopsies of each graft. All biopsies that contained glomeruli showed linear capillary loop or blotchy mesangial staining, or both, which was similar in prereperfusion and postreperfusion biopsies. All positive controls showed diffuse C4d staining in PTCs.
Conclusions: C4d staining in PTCs may be seen as early as 1 hr posttransplantation in some recipients with low levels of antidonor antibodies. However, this was not observed as a feature of ischemic or ischemia-reperfusion injury in perioperative renal transplant biopsies, including those of cadaveric grafts with cold ischemia times of as long as 41 hr.