Background: The presence of CD20+ lymphocyte renal allograft infiltrates has been associated with steroid-resistant rejection and poor graft survival. We quantified the number of CD20+ lymphocytes in renal allograft biopsies and correlated the results with graft survival. We also determined the relationships between CD20+ lymphocytes and acute cellular rejection versus antibody-mediated rejection.
Methods: We examined 45 biopsy samples from 31 pediatric patients biopsied for suspicion of rejection from November 2001 to November 2004. Immunohistochemical staining for CD20 and C4d was performed on all biopsies; CD20+ cell density per high-power field (hpf) was determined for each core. Patient graft status was followed postbiopsy and documented for graft survival or failure using the cutoff date of December 31, 2005.
Results: Patients with 2-10 and 11-100 CD20+ cells/hpf had worse graft survival in Kaplan-Meier analysis with a hazard ratio 4.56 (CI 1.07-19.35) two years postbiopsy compared to those with 0-1 cells/hpf (P = 0.02). The presence of CD20+ lymphocytes was significantly associated with acute cellular rejection (P = 0.0001) and not associated with antibody-mediated rejection (P = 0.16). Receiver-operating curve analysis confirmed > or =3 cells/hpf correlating with acute cellular rejection, yielding sensitivity 90% and specificity 76%.
Conclusions: This study shows a significant 4.5-fold risk of graft failure at two years postbiopsy with presence of > or =2 CD20+ cells/hpf. Moreover, > or =3 CD20+ lymphocytes were highly associated with acute cellular rejection. They may be functioning as professional antigen-presenting cells in the graft. In steroid-refractory cellular rejections, therapies that target B cells may prolong graft survival.