Antibodies to HLA Molecules Mimic Agonistic Stimulation to Trigger Vascular Cell Changes and Induce Allograft Injury

Curr Transplant Rep. 2015 Sep;2(3):222-232. doi: 10.1007/s40472-015-0065-6. Epub 2015 May 24.


Human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-induced signaling in endothelial and smooth muscle cells causes dramatic cytoskeletal rearrangement, increased survival, motility, proliferation, adhesion molecule and chemokine expression, and adhesion of leukocytes. These mechanisms are directly related to endothelial activation, neointimal proliferation, and intragraft accumulation of leukocytes during antibody-mediated rejection (AMR) and chronic rejection. Clustering of HLA by ligands in trans, such as in antigen-presenting cells at the immune synapse, triggers physiological functions analogous to HLA antibody-induced signaling in vascular cells. Emerging evidence has revealed previously unknown functions for HLA beyond antigen presentation, including association with coreceptors in cis to permit signal transduction, and modulation of intracellular signaling downstream of other receptors that may be relevant to HLA signaling in the graft vasculature. We discuss the literature regarding HLA-induced signaling in vascular endothelial and smooth muscle cells, as well as under endogenous biological conditions, and how such signaling relates to functional changes and pathological mechanisms during graft injury.

Keywords: Antibody-mediated rejection; Endothelial cells; HLA antibodies; Leukocyte recruitment; Mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR); Signal transduction.