Increased expression of HLA-DR antigens on renal tubular cells in renal transplants: relevance to the rejection response

Lancet. 1984 Aug 4;2(8397):247-51. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(84)90297-6.


Whether the expression of DR antigens is altered in cadaver renal transplants was examined by the use of monoclonal antibodies to the non-polymorphic region of the DR molecule and an indirect immunoperoxidase stain. Expression of DR antigens increased considerably on renal tubular cells in all 25 biopsy specimens which showed severe cellular rejection, but in only 4 of 14 biopsy specimens with no or minimum evidence of rejection. 2 of these 4 specimens were from patients recently treated for severe rejection and the other 2 subsequently lost their grafts from chronic rejection. DR antigens were also expressed on the cell surface of isolated tubular cells aspirated from transplanted kidneys with acute cellular rejection but not on tubular cells in normal kidneys or aspirates from kidneys without rejection. Biopsy specimens with increased DR expression in tubules usually had an interstitial T cell infiltrate. Expression of DR antigens on tubular cells was not related to HLA-DR incompatibility between donor and host, or to the type of immunosuppressive therapy given. The expression of DR antigens on renal tubular cells may be induced by the infiltrating activated T cells or be a consequence of tubular regeneration following rejection or ischaemic damage. The increased expression of DR antigens on renal tubular cells during rejection makes these cells potential targets for delayed type hypersensitivity responses, which are only effective against DR antigen bearing cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cadaver
  • Female
  • Graft Rejection*
  • HLA-DR Antigens
  • Histocompatibility
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Kidney / pathology
  • Kidney Transplantation*
  • Kidney Tubules / immunology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Transplantation Immunology


  • HLA-DR Antigens
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II