A comparative study of human-and rhesus-specific antithymocyte globulins in Rhesus macaques

Clin Transplant. 2021 Aug;35(8):e14369. doi: 10.1111/ctr.14369. Epub 2021 May 31.


Rabbit antithymocyte globulin (RATG) preparations are widely used in transplantation. They are developed in vivo against thymocytes and contain polyclonal antibodies specific for myriad cellular targets. The rhesus monkey is commonly used as a preclinical transplant model, but the fidelity of commercially available human-specific RATGs to anticipate the effects of RATGs in rhesus has not been established. We therefore developed two rhesus-specific ATGs (rhATG) and compared them to human-specific RATG (huATG, Thymoglobulin® ) in rhesus monkeys, assessing the magnitude and phenotype of depletion peripherally and in lymph nodes. Four primates were assigned to each group and received 20 mg/kg of drug. Depletion, repopulation, and changes in lymphocyte subsets were evaluated in peripheral blood and lymph nodes by flow cytometry over four months. We observed similar qualitative changes in lymphocyte subsets, but a generally more profound depletion with huATG compared to either rhATG. Peripheral homeostatic proliferation rather than thymic output was the major mechanism for repopulation with all RATGs. Repopulation was slower but qualitatively similar when examining RATGs in additional animals receiving concomitant chronic immunosuppression. Depletional induction is similar to human- and rhesus-specific RATGs in rhesus macaques. Both rhesus- and human-specific agents appear appropriate for preclinical modeling of clinical RATG use.

Keywords: Immunosuppressant; T cell biology; immunosuppressant; polyclonal preparations; polyclonal preparations: rabbit antithymocyte globulin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antilymphocyte Serum*
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Humans
  • Macaca mulatta


  • Antilymphocyte Serum