Acute humoral xenograft rejection: Destruction of the microvascular capillary endothelium in pig-to-nonhuman primate renal grafts

Academic Article


  • The major cause of xenograft loss beyond hyperacute rejection is a form of injury, traditionally termed delayed xenograft rejection (DXR), whose pathogenesis is unknown. Here we analyze the immunologic and morphologic features of DXR that develops in pig kidney xenografts transplanted into nonhuman primates. Kidneys from miniature swine were transplanted into cynomolgus monkeys (n = 14) or baboons (n = 11) that received regimens aimed to induce mixed chimerism and tolerance. No kidney was rejected hyperacutely. Morphologic and immunohistochemical studies were performed on serial biopsies, and an effort was made to quantify the pathologic features seen. The early phase of DXR (Days 0-12) was characterized by focal deposition of IgM, IgG, C3, and scanty neutrophil and macrophage infiltrates. The first abnormality recognized was glomerular and peritubular capillary endothelial cell death as defined by in situ DNA nick-end labeling (TUNEL). Damaged endothelial cells underwent apoptosis and, later, frank necrosis. The progressive phase developed around day 6 and was characterized by progressive deposition of IgM, IgG, C3, and prominent infiltration of cytotoxic T cells and macrophages, with a small number of NK cells. Thrombotic microangiopathy developed in the glomeruli and peritubular capillaries with TUNEL+ endothelial cells, platelet aggregation, and destruction of the capillary network. Only rare damaged arterial endothelial cells and tubular epithelial cells were observed, with rare endothelialitis and tubulitis. In the advanced phase of DXR, interstitial hemorrhage and infarction occurred. During the development of DXR, the number of TUNEL + cells increased, and this correlated with progressive deposition of antibody. The degree of platelet aggregation correlated with the number of TUNEL + damaged endothelial cells. We conclude that peritubular and glomerular capillary endothelia are the primary targets of renal DXR rather than tubular epithelial cells or arterial endothelium and that the earliest detectable change is endothelial cell death. DXR was characterized by progressive destruction of the microvasculature (glomeruli and peritubular capillaries) and formation of fibrin-platelet thrombi. Both cytotoxic cells and antibodies potentially mediate the endothelial damage in DXR; however, in this model, DXR is largely humorally mediated and is better termed 'acute humoral xenograft rejection'.
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    Author List

  • Shimizu A; Meehan SM; Kozlowski T; Sablinski T; Ierino FL; Cooper DKC; Sachs DH; Colvin RB
  • Start Page

  • 815
  • End Page

  • 830
  • Volume

  • 80
  • Issue

  • 6