Rat-to-Chinese tree shrew heart transplantation is a novel small animal model to study non-Gal-mediated discordant xenograft humoral rejection

Xenotransplantation. 2015 Nov-Dec;22(6):468-75. doi: 10.1111/xen.12211. Epub 2015 Nov 20.


Since α-1,3-galactosyltransferase knockout (GalT-KO) pigs became available, there has been an increasing interest in non-Gal natural antibody (nAb)-mediated xenograft rejection. To better understand mechanisms of non-Gal nAb-mediated rejection, a simple small animal model without gene manipulation would be extremely valuable. Here, we tested whether the Chinese tree shrew (CTS), which is a small-sized mammal that is phylogenetically close to primates, could serve as a model for discordant xenograft rejection.

Methods: Study 1: Expression of α-Gal antigens in hearts and kidneys of CTSs and rats was assessed by IB4 lectin binding. Presence of anti-Gal and anti-non-Gal IgM and IgG nAb in CTS sera was tested by FACS using Gal+ and GalTKO PBMC as well as BSA-ELISA. Study 2: Rat hearts were transplanted into CTS recipients (group 1, n = 7), and CTS hearts were transplanted in rats [n = 10; seven received no immunosuppression (group 2) and three received FK506 + leflunomide (group 3)].

Results: Study 1: Both CTSs and rats had α-Gal expression in hearts and kidneys. ELISA showed CTSs do not have anti-Gal nAb, and flow cytometry indicated CTSs have anti-non-Gal IgM and IgG nAb in serum. Study 2: Rat hearts in CTSs were uniformly rejected within 35 mins, while CTS hearts in rats continued beating until day 5 without immunosuppression, and up to day 8 with immunosuppression.

Conclusion: Rat-to-CTS heart transplantation is a discordant xenotransplant model, CTS-to-Rat heart transplantation is a concordant xenotransplant model. CTSs are valuable small animals to study mechanisms and strategies to avoid non-Gal nAb-mediated xenograft rejection.

Keywords: Chinese tree shrews; animal model; cardiac transplantation; xenograft rejection; xenotransplantation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens / immunology
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Galactosyltransferases / genetics
  • Graft Rejection / immunology*
  • Heart Transplantation* / methods
  • Heterografts / immunology*
  • Immunosuppression Therapy / methods
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / immunology*
  • Rats
  • Shrews
  • Swine
  • Transplantation, Heterologous* / methods


  • Antigens
  • Galactosyltransferases