Monitoring of anti-HLA class I and II antibodies by flow cytometry in patients after first cadaveric kidney transplantation


Corresponding author: Michael Müller-Steinhardt, MD, Institute of Immunology and Transfusion Medicine, University of Lübeck, School of Medicine, Ratzeburger Allee 160, 23538 Lübeck, Germany. Tel: +49 0 451 500 2841; fax: +49 0 451 500 2857; e-mail:


While the relevance of pre-formed anti-human leukocyte antigen (HLA) antibodies has been studied extensively, the role of anti-HLA class I and II antibodies produced after cadaveric kidney transplantation is still a matter of discussion. As it has been proposed that they are involved in a considerable number of cases, it should be investigated whether a post-transplant monitoring is a sensitive parameter for the early diagnosis of acute rejection episodes. Additionally, it has been suggested that antibodies are a major cause for chronic rejection; thus, it would be of interest to correlate antibody detection and graft survival. We retrospectively investigated 59 patients after a first cadaveric kidney transplantation without known anti-HLA antibodies (complement-dependent cytotoxicity [CDC] testing). The panel reactivity was determined with a new highly sensitive and specific flow-cytometric technique (Flow-PRA Screening Test©, One Lambda, Canoga Park, USA) in sequentially collected serum samples pre- and post-transplant. In patients with acute rejection episodes during the clinical course, the last sample prior to rejection, and in patients without rejection, the last sample prior to discharge, was analyzed. Furthermore, we analyzed 3-yr graft survival and several clinical parameters such as cold ischemia time (CIT).Twenty-four of 59 patients (41%) experienced acute rejections during the clinical course. Five of 59 died with a functioning graft within the first 3 yr. Seven of 54 patients, still alive after 3 yr, lost their graft. Anti-HLA antibodies were detectable in only 7/59 patients and a correlation between antibody positivity and acute rejections (p=0.32 and 0.54 for anti-HLA class I and II, respectively) could not be identified (sensitivity 12.5 and 8.3%). However, we found a significant correlation between the detection of anti-HLA class II and graft loss within 3 yr (p=0.005, specificity 97.9%). Additionally, anti-HLA class II positive patients had significantly longer CIT (p=0.003).Whether the detection of anti-HLA class II antibodies in the early post-transplant phase is of great value for the identification of patients at high risk for early graft loss needs additional investigation. However, we found that anti-HLA antibodies are detectable only in a minority of unsensitized patients and we conclude that flow-cytometric monitoring with Flow PRA is not a sensitive parameter for the early diagnosis of acute rejection episodes in patients after first cadaveric kidney transplantation.