Background: Immunohistochemical detection of the C4d complement product along peritubular capillaries (PC) may indicate humoral rejection of renal allografts. We examined the frequency of PC C4d expression in renal-allograft biopsies with acute rejection (AR) arising more than 6 months after transplantation and the impact of this finding.
Methods: C4d was detected by immunoperoxidase in 2-micron paraffin sections of consecutive biopsies obtained over a 3-year period. The extent was classified as diffuse (> or =50% PC C4d+), focal (<50% C4d+), and negative (C4d-). Clinical data were obtained by retrospective chart review. Fifty-five AR episodes with Banff 97 types 1A (n = 13), 1B (n = 26), 2A (n = 11), 2B (n = 3), and 3 (n = 2) met inclusion criteria.
Results: PC C4d expression was diffuse in 23 (42%), focal in 9 (16%), and negative in 23 (42%) biopsies. AR episodes with focal and diffuse C4d expression had higher proportionate elevation of serum creatinine at biopsy and 4 weeks after diagnosis (P< or =0.05). Biopsies with diffuse PC C4d had interstitial hemorrhage (56.5%) and plasmacytic infiltrates (52%) more frequently than C4d- biopsies (22% and 16%), P = 0.02, but had no other distinctive histologic features. Graft loss was greater in diffuse (65%) compared with focal C4d+ (33%) and C4d- (33%) groups 1 year after diagnosis, P = 0.03. Other clinical and pathologic parameters did not differ significantly, including treatment received for AR.
Conclusion: Evidence of acute cellular with occult humoral rejection is identified in more than 40% of late AR episodes. Late acute humoral rejection may be associated with interstitial hemorrhage and plasma cells and contributes significantly to graft loss.