Strategies to overcome the ABO barrier in kidney transplantation

Nat Rev Nephrol. 2015 Dec;11(12):732-47. doi: 10.1038/nrneph.2015.144. Epub 2015 Sep 1.


Kidney transplantation across the ABO blood group barrier was long considered a contraindication for transplantation, but in an effort to increase donor pools, specific regimens for ABO-incompatible (ABOi) transplantation have been developed. These regimens are now widely used as an integral part of the available treatment options. Various desensitization protocols, commonly based on transient depletion of preformed anti-A and/or anti-B antibodies and modulation of B-cell immunity, enable excellent transplant outcomes, even in the long-term. Nevertheless, the molecular mechanisms behind transplant acceptance facilitated by a short course of anti-humoral treatment are still incompletely understood. With the evolution of efficient clinical programmes, tailoring of recipient preconditioning based on individual donor-recipient blood type combinations and the levels of pretransplant anti-A/B antibodies has become possible. In the context of low antibody titres and/or donor A2 phenotype, immunomodulation and/or apheresis might be dispensable. A concern still exists, however, that ABOi kidney transplantation is associated with an increased risk of surgical and infectious complications, partly owing to the effects of extracorporeal treatment and intensified immunosuppression. Nevertheless, a continuous improvement in desensitization strategies, with the aim of minimizing the immunosuppressive burden, might pave the way to clinical outcomes that are comparable to those achieved in ABO-compatible transplantation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • ABO Blood-Group System* / blood
  • Animals
  • Blood Group Incompatibility / blood
  • Blood Group Incompatibility / immunology*
  • Desensitization, Immunologic
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Graft Rejection / immunology
  • Humans
  • Kidney Transplantation*
  • Mice
  • Postoperative Complications / immunology


  • ABO Blood-Group System