Platelets and capillary injury in acute humoral rejection of renal allografts

Hum Pathol. 2003 Jun;34(6):533-40. doi: 10.1016/s0046-8177(03)00189-8.


Platelet accumulation in glomerular capillaries (GC) and peritubular capillaries (PC) has pathogenetic importance in antibody-mediated hyperacute renal allograft rejection. CD61 is expressed constitutively by platelets, by platelet microparticles arising from platelet activation, and is readily detectable by immunohistochemistry. This study examined the immunohistochemical localization of CD61 in acute humoral rejection (AHR) of renal allografts to explore the relationship of platelet accumulation to antibody-mediated rejection. Two observers graded the extent of CD61 staining in PC and GC from 0 (none) to 2+ (>50%) in 15 renal allograft biopsy specimens with AHR and compared these with tissues from allografts with acute cellular rejection (ACR) (n = 23); acute calcineurin inhibitor toxicity (ACIT) (n = 21) with thrombotic microangiopathy (TMA) (n = 11) and tubular toxicity only (n = 10); acute tubular necrosis (ATN) (n = 16); acute renal vein thrombosis (RVT) (n = 4); and histologically unremarkable native kidneys (n = 26). Selected tissues were examined by electron microscopy and stained for CD34 by immunohistochemistry. Histologically unremarkable native kidney tissues had CD61 only in scattered small lumenal granules in GC and PC. Mural and occlusive lumenal CD61 deposits (>0.5+) were observed in 13 of 13 (100%) allograft tissues with GC thrombi due to AHR (1) and ACIT TMA (9) and RVT (3). Twenty-seven of 66 allografts (40.9%) without glomerular thrombi had >0.5+ GC CD61 in AHR (60%), ACR (26%), tubular ACIT (60%), and ATN (44%). More than trace (>0.5+) PC mural and lumenal CD61 deposits were seen only in AHR (53.3%) and ACR (30%). PC CD61 correlated with interstitial hemorrhage (r = 0.64), neutrophilic capillaritis (r = 0.47), and interstitial inflammation (r = 0.47) (P <0.001 for each). PC CD61 was observed in 11 of 11 foci of necrosis due to AHR, RVT, and ischemia. In AHR, capillaries with CD61 deposits had few platelets, numerous microvesicles and membrane fragments, severe endothelial injury seen on electron microscopy, and reduced capillary CD34 expression. CD61 detection by immunohistochemistry revealed products of capillary platelet activation in allograft biopsy specimens without light microscopic thrombi. Observations in this study suggest that intracapillary platelet activation occurs in response to graft capillary injury from many causes and may not be specific for antibody-mediated rejection.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Antigens, CD34 / analysis
  • Antigens, CD34 / metabolism
  • Blood Platelets / immunology*
  • Blood Platelets / pathology*
  • Capillaries / immunology*
  • Capillaries / metabolism
  • Capillaries / pathology*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / ultrastructure
  • Graft Rejection / immunology*
  • Graft Rejection / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Integrin beta3 / analysis
  • Integrin beta3 / metabolism
  • Kidney Glomerulus / blood supply
  • Kidney Glomerulus / metabolism
  • Kidney Transplantation / adverse effects
  • Kidney Transplantation / immunology*
  • Kidney Transplantation / pathology*
  • Kidney Tubules / blood supply
  • Kidney Tubules / metabolism


  • Antigens, CD34
  • Integrin beta3