To investigate the role of donor-specific indirect pathway T cells in renal transplant tolerance, we analyzed responses in peripheral blood of 45 patients using the trans-vivo delayed-type hypersensitivity assay. Subjects were enrolled into five groups-identical twin, clinically tolerant (TOL), steroid monotherapy (MONO), standard immunosuppression (SI) and chronic rejection (CR)-based on transplant type, posttransplant immunosuppression and graft function. The indirect pathway was active in all groups except twins but distinct intergroup differences were evident, corresponding to clinical status. The antidonor indirect pathway T effector response increased across patient groups (TOL < MONO < SI < CR; p < 0.0001) whereas antidonor indirect pathway T regulatory response decreased (TOL > MONO = SI > CR; p < 0.005). This pattern differed from that seen in circulating naïve B-cell numbers and in a cross-platform biomarker analysis, where patients on monotherapy were not ranked closest to TOL patients, but rather were indistinguishable from chronically rejecting patients. Cross-sectional analysis of the indirect pathway revealed a spectrum in T-regulatory:T-effector balance, ranging from TOL patients having predominantly regulatory responses to CR patients having predominantly effector responses. Therefore, the indirect pathway measurements reflect a distinct aspect of tolerance from the recently reported elevation of circulating naïve B cells, which was apparent only in recipients off immunosuppression.
© copyright 2011 The American Society of Transplantation and the American Society of Transplant Surgeons.