Background: Post transplant anti-glomerular basement membrane (GBM) disease affects up to 5% of patients with Alport's syndrome. Defects in the COL4A5 gene are responsible for most cases, and alpha 5(IV)NC1 is the usual target for alloantibodies. Gene deletions are more commonly associated with this complication than are point mutations. The disease is severe in renal allografts and nearly always results in graft loss.
Methods: Three cases of retransplantation in Alport's syndrome are described here in detail. All cases were started on immunosuppressive therapy early in the course of their disease and one patient (case 2) received pre-emptive anti-T-cell therapy (Campath IH). Anti-GBM antibodies in these cases were investigated by standard anti-GBM enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), by indirect immunofluorescence, and by Western blotting using collagenase-digested human GBM and recombinant type IV collagen NC1 domains made in insect cells.
Results: All cases showed early antibody and complement fixation to human GBM. Target alloantibodies were to alpha 5(IV)NC1 domain predominantly. Cases two and three gave negative results on standard ELISA for anti-GBM antibodies. Pathologic examination revealed crescentic glomerulonephritis, which was rapid in onset in case 1, blunted and less aggressive in case 3, and case 2 developed segmental necrosis without crescent formation. Neutrophilic infiltrates were an early feature in all 3 cases. All cases are compared with a review of all retransplanted cases in the literature.
Conclusion: Alport anti-GBM disease is a severe disease in retransplanted patients. Anti-T-cell therapy seemed to modify the pathologic findings but did not prevent graft loss. Longer term plasma exchange and mycophenolate mofetil may attenuate the illness, but in these cases did not prevent graft loss. Western blotting detected alloantibodies to alpha 5(IV) NC1 domain and is more sensitive and specific for this disease than standard ELISAs.