Increased Cell-Free DNA Plasma Concentration Following Liver Transplantation Is Linked to Portal Hepatitis and Inferior Survival

J Clin Med. 2020 May 20;9(5):1543. doi: 10.3390/jcm9051543.


Donor organ quality is crucial for transplant survival and long-term survival of patients after liver transplantation. Besides bacterial and viral infections, endogenous damage-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs) can stimulate immune responses. Cell-free DNA (cfDNA) is one such DAMP that exhibits highly proinflammatory effects via DNA sensors. Herein, we measured cfDNA after liver transplantation and found elevated levels when organs from resuscitated donors were transplanted. High levels of cfDNA were associated with high C-reactive protein, leukocytosis as well as granulocytosis in the recipient. In addition to increased systemic immune responses, portal hepatitis was observed, which was associated with increased interface activity and a higher numbers of infiltrating neutrophils and eosinophils in the graft. In fact, the cfDNA was an independent significant factor in multivariate analysis and increased concentration of cfDNA was associated with inferior 1-year survival. Moreover, cfDNA levels were found to be decreased significantly during the postoperative course when patients underwent continuous veno-venous haemofiltration. In conclusion, patients receiving livers from resuscitated donors were characterised by high postoperative cfDNA levels. Those patients showed pronounced portal hepatitis and systemic inflammatory responses in the short term leading to a high mortality. Further studies are needed to evaluate the clinical relevance of cfDNA clearance by haemoadsorption and haemofiltration in vitro and in vivo.

Keywords: C-reactive proteins; cell-free DNA; cfDNA; damage-associated molecular patterns; liver transplantation; portal hepatitis; sepsis; systemic immune response.