Alloimmunity-induced autoimmunity as a potential mechanism in the pathogenesis of chronic rejection of human lung allografts

J Heart Lung Transplant. 2011 Jun;30(6):624-31. doi: 10.1016/j.healun.2011.01.708. Epub 2011 Mar 16.


Background: Bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome (BOS) is a major cause of morbidity and mortality after lung transplantation (LTx). We sought to better understand the relationship between alloimmune responses and autoimmunity and, subsequently, how autoimmunity leads to chronic rejection.

Methods: We analyzed the development of donor-specific antibodies (Abs) in LTx by flow PRA and the development of Abs to K-α1 tubulin (K-α1T) and collagen V (ColV) by ELISA. The frequency of K-α1T- and ColV-specific T cells that secrete IFN-γ, IL-17 and IL-10 in LTx recipients was measured by ELISPOT.

Results: In a retrospective analysis of 42 LTx recipients, we demonstrated a strong correlation between development of donor-specific anti-HLA Abs, Abs to self-antigens and BOS (p < 0.05). To test the hypothesis that alloimmunity is related to an immune response to self-antigens, we analyzed 103 LTx patients prospectively for the development of donor-specific Abs (DSA) and Abs to self-antigens. A total of 42.7% of recipients developed DSA and 30.1% developed Abs to K-α1T and ColV. Development of DSA preceded development of Abs to self-antigens. BOS(+) patients had higher frequency of T cells secreting IL-17 (p < 0.01) and IFN-γ (p < 0.05) with decreased IL-10 (p < 0.05) when compared with BOS(-) patients.

Conclusions: Based on these results we propose that alloimmune responses to donor HLA can induce autoimmune responses to airway epithelial self-antigens, characterized by activation of the IL-17 pathway. These immune responses to self-antigens along with alloimmunity contribute to the pathogenesis of BOS. Strategies to prevent development of autoimmunity may be play a key role in preventing the development of chronic rejection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Autoimmunity / immunology*
  • Bronchiolitis Obliterans / etiology
  • Bronchiolitis Obliterans / immunology*
  • Collagen Type V / immunology*
  • Female
  • Graft Rejection / immunology*
  • Graft Rejection / pathology
  • HLA Antigens / immunology
  • Humans
  • Interferon-gamma / immunology
  • Interferon-gamma / metabolism
  • Interleukin-10 / immunology
  • Interleukin-10 / metabolism
  • Interleukin-17 / immunology
  • Interleukin-17 / metabolism
  • Lung Transplantation / immunology*
  • Lung Transplantation / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Tissue Donors
  • Transplantation, Homologous
  • Tubulin / immunology*


  • Collagen Type V
  • HLA Antigens
  • Interleukin-17
  • Tubulin
  • Interleukin-10
  • Interferon-gamma