Addressing the causes of kidney allograft-accelerated aging is an important challenge for improving long-term transplant outcomes. Here we investigated the role of circulating donor-specific anti-HLA antibodies (HLA-DSAs) in the development and the progression of kidney allograft fibrosis with inclusion of traditional risk factors for allograft fibrosis. We prospectively enrolled 1539 consecutive kidney recipients transplanted in two centers and assessed interstitial fibrosis and tubular atrophy (IF/TA) in biopsies performed at one year post-transplantation. The HLA-DSAs and all traditional determinants of IF/TA were recorded at transplantation and within the first year post-transplantation, including histological diagnoses in 2260 "for cause" biopsies. This identified 498 (32%) patients with severe IF/TA (Banff IF/TA grade 2 or more). HLA-DSAs were significantly associated with severe IF/TA (adjusted odds ratio, 1.53; 95% confidence interval 1.16-2.01) after including 37 determinants. HLA-DSAs remained significantly associated with severe IF/TA in patients without antibody-mediated rejection (adjusted odds ratio 1.54; 1.11-2.14). HLA-DSAs were the primary contributor, being involved in 11% of cases, while T cell-mediated rejection, calcineurin-inhibitor toxicity, acute tubular necrosis, pyelonephritis, and BK virus-associated nephropathy were involved in 9%, 8%, 6%, 5%, and 4% of cases, respectively. One hundred fifty-four patients with HLA-DSA-associated severe IF/TA showed significantly increased microvascular inflammation, transplant glomerulopathy, C4d deposition in capillaries, and decreased allograft survival compared to 344 patients with severe IF/TA without HLA-DSAs. Three hundred seventy-eight patients with post-transplant HLA-DSAs exhibited significantly accelerated progression of IF/TA compared to 1161 patients without HLA-DSAs in the biopsies performed at one year post-transplant and beyond. Thus, circulating HLA-DSAs are major determinants of premature and accelerated allograft fibrosis acting independently of traditional risk factors and antibody-mediated rejection.
Keywords: donor-specific anti-HLA antibody; interstitial fibrosis; kidney transplantation; outcome.
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