Background: Chronic humoral rejection (CHR) is a major complication after kidney transplantation. The cause of CHR is currently unknown. Autoantibodies have often been reported in kidney transplant recipients alongside antidonor human leukocyte antigen antibodies. Yet, the lack of comprehensive studies has limited our understanding of this autoimmune component in the pathophysiology of CHR.
Methods: By using a series of ELISA and immunocytochemistry assays, we assessed the development of autoantibodies in 25 kidney transplant recipients with CHR and 25 patients with stable graft function. We also compared the reactivity of five CHR and five non-CHR patient sera with 8027 recombinant human proteins using protein microarrays.
Results: We observed that a majority of CHR patients, but not non-CHR control patients, had developed antibody responses to one or several autoantigens at the time of rejection. Protein microarray assays revealed a burst of autoimmunity at the time of CHR. Remarkably, microarray analysis showed minimal overlap between profiles, indicating that each CHR patient had developed autoantibodies to a unique set of antigenic targets.
Conclusion: The breadth of autoantibody responses, together with the absence of consensual targets, suggests that these antibody responses result from systemic B-cell deregulation.