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Keywords:

  • Allotransplantation;
  • accommodation;
  • apoptosis;
  • rejection;
  • anti-HLA antibody

Transplantation of renal allografts into recipients with circulating anti-HLA antibodies results in hyperacute rejection. In some cases, however, antibodies return without causing harm; this phenomenon has been termed ‘accommodation’. We have investigated this process in human allotransplantation.

We removed anti-HLA antibodies by immunoadsorption in seven highly sensitized dialysis patients who subsequently underwent renal transplantation. Immunohistochemistry of renal biopsies for IgG and anti-apoptotic proteins was performed. We also developed a model of ‘accommodation’ using anti-HLA antibodies eluted from sensitized patients and incubated with human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) at different concentrations. Their effect on HUVEC phenotype was then analysed.

Anti-donor antibody returned in 4/7 patients, without evidence of hyperacute rejection. Three out of four of these ‘accommodated’ grafts showed specific endothelial up-regulation of Bcl-xL and 2/2 tested positive for endothelial IgG deposition. HUVECs incubated with subsaturating concentrations of anti-HLA antibody showed increased expression of Bcl-xL, were rendered refractory to endothelial cell activation and became resistant to complement-mediated lysis. In contrast, HUVECs incubated with saturating concentrations underwent activation and expressed low levels of Bcl-xL.

In conclusion, endothelial Bcl-xL expression defines the accommodation process in human allografts and this phenotype may be initiated by exposure of endothelium to low concentrations of anti-donor HLA antibodies.