Mechanisms of transfusion-related acute lung injury (TRALI): anti-leukocyte antibodies

Crit Care Med. 2006 May;34(5 Suppl):S118-23. doi: 10.1097/01.CCM.0000214293.72918.D8.


There is abundant evidence that leukocyte antibodies in blood donor products are somehow involved in transfusion-related acute lung injury (TRALI). Human leukocyte antigen (HLA) class I, HLA class II, and neutrophil-specific antibodies in the plasma of both blood donors and recipients have been implicated in the pathogenesis of TRALI. The case for a relationship between leukocyte antibodies and TRALI is more compelling if concordance between the antigen specificity of the leukocyte antibodies in the donor plasma and the corresponding antigen on the cells of the affected recipient is demonstrated. Such antibody-antigen concordance can be investigated by typing the recipient for the cognate leukocyte antigens or by cross-matching the donor plasma against the recipient's leukocytes. Two proposed pathophysiologic mechanisms for TRALI have received the most attention: the antibody hypothesis and the two-event hypothesis. The final common pathway in all of the proposed pathogenic mechanisms of TRALI is increased pulmonary capillary permeability, which results in movement of plasma into the alveolar space causing pulmonary edema. A typical TRALI serologic workup consists of tests for HLA class I and II and neutrophil-specific antibodies. The use of flow cytometry and HLA-coated microbeads is recommended for detection of HLA antibodies in plasma of implicated blood donors and a combination of the granulocyte agglutination test and granulocyte immunofluorescence test for detection of neutrophil-specific antibodies. Genotyping for class I and II HLA and for a limited number of neutrophil antigens may also be helpful in establishing antibody-antigen concordance.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antigen-Antibody Reactions
  • Blood Donors
  • Blood Grouping and Crossmatching
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / immunology
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II / immunology
  • Humans
  • Isoantibodies / blood
  • Isoantibodies / immunology*
  • Leukocytes / immunology*
  • Neutrophils / immunology
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / etiology*
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / immunology*
  • Transfusion Reaction*


  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II
  • Isoantibodies