Background: This study aimed to determine whether the production, in renal transplant recipients, of antibodies directed against donor HLA mismatches is predictive of transplant failure.
Methods: The failure study group comprised 112 adult recipients of primary renal transplants who had re-entered the transplant waiting list after failure of the first graft. A control group of 123 recipients with functioning transplants was selected from transplantations performed during the same time period, in which patients had equivalent HLA matching and immunosuppression and a minimum of 5 years of follow-up. Sera taken before transplantation and at 1, 3, and 6 months and annually after transplantation were tested by enzyme-linked immunoabsorbent assay (ELISA) for the presence of HLA class I- and class II-specific antibodies. Antibody specificity was defined by a combination of cytotoxicity, ELISA, and flow cytometry techniques to determine whether the antibodies were directed against donor mismatches.
Results: All recipients were negative for donor HLA-specific antibodies before transplantation. After transplantation, 57 (50.9%) of the 112 patients in the failure group produced donor HLA-specific antibodies compared with 2 (1.6%) of the 123 controls (P<0.0001; odds ratio [OR]=64.98; confidence interval [CI], 14.78-399.51). For 60% of the donor-specific antibody-positive patients, antibodies were detected before transplant failure. In 17 cases, these were class I specific; in 14 cases, class II specific; and in 3 cases, specific for both class I and II.
Conclusions: This study has demonstrated that the production of posttransplantation antibodies directed against donor HLA-A, -B, -Cw, -DR, and -DQ mismatches are all strongly predictive of transplant failure.