Background: Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) caused by poorly defined minor (i.e., other than HLA) histocompatibility antigens remains a serious problem in recipients of bone marrow transplants. We sought to determine whether the CD31 adhesion molecule is a minor alloantigen.
Methods: We directly sequenced samples of complementary DNA (cDNA) encoding CD31 molecules from 21 unrelated normal subjects. Sequence-specific primers were then designed to amplify alleles by the polymerase chain reaction, thereby permitting CD31 typing of genomic DNA from additional normal subjects. To assess the relevance of CD31 matching to bone marrow transplantation, we performed CD31 typing of 46 recipients of bone marrow (32 without GVHD and 14 with severe [grade III or IV] acute GVHD) and their HLA-identical sibling donors. The immunoreactivity of CD31 phenotypes with anti-CD31 monoclonal antibodies was compared by flow cytometry.
Results: Direct sequencing of cDNA for CD31 from the 21 normal subjects identified a single polymorphism, CTG-->GTG (Leu-->Val), at codon 125; we designated the resulting alleles CD31.L and CD31.V, respectively. The CD31 genotypes of these and 142 other unrelated subjects were of the expected frequencies. Among the transplant recipients, 71 percent of those with acute GVHD had CD31 genotypes that were not identical to the donor's genotype, as compared with 22 percent of the recipients without GVHD (P = 0.004). The binding of anti-CD31 monoclonal antibodies as measured by fluorescence-activated cell sorting correlated with the CD31 types of homozygous cell lines.
Conclusions: The adhesion molecule CD31 is polymorphic. When donor and recipient genotypes are not identical, the risk of GVHD increases. Prospective CD31 typing may reduce the risk of acute GVHD.