The use of circulating cell-free DNA (cfDNA) as a biomarker in transplant recipients offers advantages over invasive tissue biopsy as a quantitative measure for detection of transplant rejection and immunosuppression optimization. However, the fraction of donor-derived cfDNA (dd-cfDNA) in transplant recipient plasma is low and challenging to quantify. Previously reported methods to measure dd-cfDNA require donor and recipient genotyping, which is impractical in clinical settings and adds cost. We developed a targeted next-generation sequencing assay that uses 266 single-nucleotide polymorphisms to accurately quantify dd-cfDNA in transplant recipients without separate genotyping. Analytical performance of the assay was characterized and validated using 1117 samples comprising the National Institute for Standards and Technology Genome in a Bottle human reference genome, independently validated reference materials, and clinical samples. The assay quantifies the fraction of dd-cfDNA in both unrelated and related donor-recipient pairs. The dd-cfDNA assay can reliably measure dd-cfDNA (limit of blank, 0.10%; limit of detection, 0.16%; limit of quantification, 0.20%) across the linear quantifiable range (0.2% to 16%) with across-run CVs of 6.8%. Precision was also evaluated for independently processed clinical sample replicates and is similar to across-run precision. Application of the assay to clinical samples from heart transplant recipients demonstrated increased levels of dd-cfDNA in patients with biopsy-confirmed rejection and decreased levels of dd-cfDNA after successful rejection treatment. This noninvasive clinical-grade sequencing assay can be completed within 3 days, providing the practical turnaround time preferred for transplanted organ surveillance.
Copyright © 2016 American Society for Investigative Pathology and the Association for Molecular Pathology. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.