Histological picture of antibody-mediated rejection without donor-specific anti-HLA antibodies: Clinical presentation and implications for outcome

Am J Transplant. 2019 Mar;19(3):763-780. doi: 10.1111/ajt.15074. Epub 2018 Sep 28.


In this cohort study (n = 935 transplantations), we investigated the phenotype and risk of graft failure in patients with histological criteria for antibody-mediated rejection (ABMR) in the absence of circulating donor-specific anti-human leukocyte antigen (HLA) antibodies (DSA), and compared this to patients with definite ABMR and HLA-DSA-positivity. The histological picture did not differ between HLA-DSA-positive (n = 85) and HLA-DSA-negative (n = 123) cases of ABMR histology, apart from increased complement split product 4d (C4d) deposition in the peritubular capillaries in HLA-DSA-positive cases. Histology of ABMR without HLA-DSA was more transient than DSA-positive ABMR, and patients with ABMR histology without HLA-DSA had graft survival superior to that of HLA-DSA-positive patients, independent of concomitant T cell-mediated rejection (38.2%) or borderline changes (17.9%). Multivariate analysis showed that the risk of graft failure was not higher in patients with histological picture of ABMR (ABMRh ) in the absence of HLA-DSA, compared to patients without ABMRh . Despite an association between C4d deposition and HLA-DSA-positivity, using C4d deposition as alternative for the DSA criterion in the diagnosis of ABMR, as proposed in Banff 2017, did not contribute to the prognosis of graft function and graft failure. We concluded that biopsies with ABMRh but without detectable HLA-DSA represent a distinct, often transient phenotype with superior allograft survival.

Keywords: alloantibody; clinical research/practice; histocompatibility; kidney (allograft) function/dysfunction; kidney transplantation/nephrology; major histocompatibility complex (MHC); organ transplantation in general; rejection: antibody-mediated (ABMR); retransplantation; translational research/science.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Allografts
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Glomerular Filtration Rate
  • Graft Rejection / etiology*
  • Graft Rejection / pathology
  • Graft Survival
  • HLA Antigens / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Isoantibodies / immunology*
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / surgery*
  • Kidney Function Tests
  • Kidney Transplantation / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Complications*
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Factors
  • Tissue Donors / supply & distribution*


  • HLA Antigens
  • Isoantibodies