In situ multiplex immunofluorescence analysis of the inflammatory burden in kidney allograft rejection: A new tool to characterize the alloimmune response

Am J Transplant. 2020 Apr;20(4):942-953. doi: 10.1111/ajt.15699. Epub 2019 Dec 11.


The exact composition of leukocyte infiltration during kidney allograft rejection is difficult to comprehend and visualize on the same biopsy slide. Using an innovative technology of multiplex immunofluorescence (mIF), we were able to detect simultaneously NK cells, macrophages, and T cells and to determine their intra- or extravascular localization using an endothelial marker. Twenty antibody-mediated rejection (ABMR), 20 T cell-mediated rejection (TCMR), and five normal biopsies were labeled, with automatic leukocyte quantification and localization. This method was compared to a classic NKp46 immunohistochemistry (IHC) with manual quantification and to mRNA quantification. mIF automatic quantification was strongly correlated to IHC (r = .91, P < .001) and to mRNA expression levels (r > .46, P < .021). T cells and macrophages were the 2 predominant populations involved in rejection (48.0 ± 4.4% and 49.3 ± 4.4%, respectively, in ABMR; 51.8 ± 6.0% and 45.3 ± 5.8% in TCMR). NK cells constituted a rare population in both ABMR (2.7 ± 0.7%) and TCMR (2.9 ± 0.6%). The intravascular compartment was mainly composed of T cells, including during ABMR, in peritubular and glomerular capillaries. However, NK cell and macrophage densities were significantly higher during ABMR in glomerular and peritubular capillaries. To conclude, this study demonstrates the feasibility and utility of mIF imaging to study and better understand the kidney allograft rejection process.

Keywords: immunohistochemistry; kidney transplantation/nephrology; natural killer (NK) cells/NK receptors; pathology/histopathology; rejection; translational research/science.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Allografts
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Graft Rejection* / diagnosis
  • Graft Rejection* / etiology
  • Kidney
  • Kidney Transplantation* / adverse effects