Background: The aim of this study was to assess the significance of positive C4d capillary immunostaining of endomyocardial biopsies and its correlation to clinical outcome in adult heart transplant recipients.
Methods: Nine hundred eighty-five endomyocardial biopsies from 107 heart transplant recipients were evaluated. Immunostaining for detection of intragraft C4d capillary deposition was performed on paraffin-embedded tissue using anti-human C4d polyclonal antibody.
Results: Positive staining of C4d was present in 36 patients (34%) and antibody-mediated rejection in eight patients (7%). The patients were subdivided into four groups on the basis of their C4d, circulating antidonor antibodies (donor-specific antibodies [DSAs]), and graft function: group 1=C4d positive, DSA negative, and no graft dysfunction; group 2=C4d positive, DSA positive, and no graft dysfunction; group 3=C4d positive, DSA positive, and signs of graft dysfunction, and group 0 (control)=all negative. An higher mortality risk was found in C4d-positive patients, when compared with negative ones (unadjusted hazard ratios: group 1: 18, group 2: 61, and group 3: 32-fold risk; P<0.0001).
Conclusions: Antibody-mediated rejection is a complex and ongoing phenomenon with different phenotypic features. C4d positive predicts worse prognosis. C4d positive [corrected] and DSA can be used as early mortality predictors in patients without signs of graft dysfunction.