The emerging role of rituximab in organ transplantation

Transpl Int. 2006 Aug;19(8):621-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1432-2277.2006.00345.x.


Long-term acceptance of solid organ allografts remains a challenge. While many acute rejection episodes can be treated, new mechanisms of allograft damage are now being defined especially in kidney transplantation. Unexpected clusters of CD20(+) cells have been discovered in renal biopsies performed for clinical rejection. C4d deposition is now routinely seen in refractory rejection. Despite the rapid introduction of new immunosuppressive agents in transplantation, the search for an efficacious anti-B-cell agent remains. With novel mechanisms of allograft damage now being defined, it is important to consider how an anti-B-cell agent might fit into an immunosuppressive regimen. Rituximab is a high-affinity CD20 specific antibody that depletes the B-cell compartment by inducing cellular apoptosis. Thus, it is a rational choice for therapy in transplantation to abrogate B-cell mediated events. In this review, we will discuss the mechanisms of action of rituximab, and its use in for a variety of indications in solid organ transplantation. There are emerging case reports that show that rituximab may be an effective agent to treat antibody-mediated rejection, and post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorder. Rituximab has been frequently cited as an important adjunct therapy in desensitization protocols for highly sensitized transplant recipients as well as recipients of ABO incompatible transplants. Rituximab demonstrates promise in this regard and warrants additional consideration in prospective clinical trials.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / adverse effects
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Murine-Derived
  • Antigens, CD20 / genetics
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Graft Rejection / therapy
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppression / adverse effects
  • Immunosuppression / methods
  • Kidney Diseases / surgery
  • Lymphocyte Depletion
  • Lymphoproliferative Disorders / etiology
  • Lymphoproliferative Disorders / therapy
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Organ Transplantation* / adverse effects
  • Receptors, IgG / genetics
  • Recurrence
  • Rituximab
  • Transplantation Immunology


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Murine-Derived
  • Antigens, CD20
  • Receptors, IgG
  • Rituximab