Successful desensitization with proteasome inhibition and costimulation blockade in sensitized nonhuman primates

Blood Adv. 2017 Oct 26;1(24):2115-2119. doi: 10.1182/bloodadvances.2017010991. eCollection 2017 Nov 14.


The detrimental effects of donor-directed antibodies in sensitized transplant patients remain a difficult immunologic barrier to successful organ transplantation. Antibody removal is often followed by rebound. Proteasome inhibitors (PIs) deplete antibody-producing plasma cells (PCs) but have shown marginal benefit for desensitization. In an allosensitized nonhuman primate (NHP) model, we observed increased germinal center (GC) formation after PI monotherapy, suggesting a compensatory PC repopulation mediated via GC activation. Here we show that costimulation blockade (CoB) targets GC follicular helper T (Tfh) cells in allosensitized NHPs. Combined PI and CoB significantly reduces bone marrow PCs (CD19+CD20-CD38+), Tfh cells (CD4+ICOS+PD-1hi), and GC B cells (BCL-6+CD20+); controls the homeostatic GC response to PC depletion; and sustains alloantibody decline. Importantly, dual PC and CoB therapy prolongs rejection-free graft survival in major histocompatibility complex incompatible kidney transplantation without alloantibody rebound. Our study illustrates a translatable desensitization method and provides mechanistic insight into maintenance of alloantibody sensitization.