SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Keywords:

  • Acute rejection;
  • biomarker;
  • chemokines;
  • kidney allograft;
  • kidney graft function

Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Acknowledgments
  8. Disclosure
  9. References
  10. Supporting Information

Noninvasive biomarkers are needed to assess immune risk and ultimately guide therapeutic decision-making following kidney transplantation. A requisite step toward these goals is validation of markers that diagnose and/or predict relevant transplant endpoints. The Clinical Trials in Organ Transplantation-01 protocol is a multicenter observational study of biomarkers in 280 adult and pediatric first kidney transplant recipients. We compared and validated urinary mRNAs and proteins as biomarkers to diagnose biopsy-proven acute rejection (AR) and stratify patients into groups based on risk for developing AR or progressive renal dysfunction. Among markers tested for diagnosing AR, urinary CXCL9 mRNA (odds ratio [OR] 2.77, positive predictive value [PPV] 61.5%, negative predictive value [NPV] 83%) and CXCL9 protein (OR 3.40, PPV 67.6%, NPV 92%) were the most robust. Low urinary CXCL9 protein in 6-month posttransplant urines obtained from stable allograft recipients classified individuals least likely to develop future AR or a decrement in estimated glomerular filtration rate between 6 and 24 months (92.5–99.3% NPV). Our results support using urinary CXCL9 for clinical decision-making following kidney transplantation. In the context of acute dysfunction, low values can rule out infectious/immunological causes of injury. Absent urinary CXCL9 at 6 months posttransplant defines a subgroup at low risk for incipient immune injury.


Abbreviations
AMR

antibody-mediated rejection

AR

acute rejection

AUC

area under the curve

CMV

cytomegalovirus

CNI

calcineurin inhibitor

CTOT

clinical trials in organ transplantation

DSA

donor specific antigen

eGFR

estimated glomerular filtration rate

NPV

negative predictive value

PPV

positive predictive value

PRA

panel reactive antibody

qRT-PCR

quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction

ROC

receiver operator characteristics

SELDI-TOF-MS

surface-enhanced laser desorption ionization time-offlight mass spectrometric.

Introduction

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Acknowledgments
  8. Disclosure
  9. References
  10. Supporting Information

Noninvasive biomarkers capable of diagnosing acute transplant rejection and predicting long-term outcomes are needed to improve clinical decision-making following kidney transplantation. This goal requires identification and multicenter validation of reliable biomarkers. Results from single-center studies suggest that several markers may be diagnostically useful for acute kidney allograft rejection or fibrosis [1-15]. However, multicenter validations are lacking. There is essentially no published evidence that any biomarker measured during times of clinical quiescence can predict long-term transplant outcome.

To address these unmet needs, we designed the Clinical Trials in Organ Transplantation Protocol-01 (CTOT-01) trial as a prospective, multicenter observational study to validate the diagnostic and predictive utility of a panel of candidate noninvasive biomarkers for transplant outcomes in primary kidney allograft recipients. The findings reported herein indicate that among assays tested, urinary levels of the chemokine CXCL9 are significantly higher in patients with ≥Banff 1A acute rejection (AR) demonstrated in for-cause biopsies (compared to those without rejection), and that the elevations in CXCL9 are commonly detectable up to 30 days before the graft dysfunction is clinically recognized. Perhaps more importantly, absent urinary CXCL9 during acute graft dysfunction rules out AR with a negative predictive value (NPV) of >92%. Low levels of CXCL9 in urine samples obtained from clinically stable allograft recipients 6 months after transplantation also uniquely identify a subgroup of patients at low risk for developing late AR and progressive allograft dysfunction over the ensuing 18 months. Together these findings provide the needed foundation for future work aimed at improving kidney transplant outcomes through biomarker-guided decision-making.

Methods

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Acknowledgments
  8. Disclosure
  9. References
  10. Supporting Information

Study design and oversight

This prospective multicenter observational trial had a target accrual of 300 subjects (280 enrolled) to reach an evaluable group of 255 adult and pediatric recipients of living or deceased first kidney transplants. The CTOT-01 protocol development team was led by Drs. Heeger and Hricik. Clinical and/or laboratory data were contributed by Drs. Birk, Fairchild, Formica, Gebel, Gibson, Goebel, Heeger, Hricik, Newell, Warshaw, Nickerson, Poggio, Rush and Shihab. Medical safety oversight was provided by Nancy Bridges. Data analysis was the responsibility of David Ikle (with the CTOT-01 team). Data were collected by the investigators and coordinators at each site. All authors vouch for data accuracy and completeness. Each site participated under the auspices of its Institutional Review Board. An independent, NIAID-appointed Data Safety Monitoring Board was responsible for periodic safety review.

Subjects

Adult and pediatric candidates for kidney transplantation having a negative crossmatch were eligible for enrollment. Plans for multi-organ transplantation and/or clinically significant liver disease were exclusion criteria.

Endpoints

The objectives were to determine the relationships between single candidate biomarkers, or combinations thereof, obtained during the first 6 months after kidney transplantation with a composite clinical endpoint (clinically evident or subclinical cellular AR of Banff grade IA or higher [16], increase in Banff chronic sum score ≥2, increase in interstitial fibrosis ≥15% [16], graft loss, or death at 6 months after transplant) and/or a change in renal function (>30% decrease in estimated glomerular filtration rate, eGFR) between months 6 and 24 after transplant. A diagnosis of antibody-mediated rejection (AMR) was defined by histological criteria and/or C4d staining with or without a donor specific antibody (DSA) as defined in the Banff criteria [17].

Interventions

Immunosuppression was not standardized in this observational study; doses and levels of immunosuppressive drugs were defined and maintained within therapeutic ranges as per local practice. Calcineurin inhibitor (CNI) levels were not collected or analyzed as part of the study.

Allograft protocol biopsies were obtained at implantation and 6 months after transplantation. “For-cause” biopsies were obtained at the discretion of the subject's physician.

Blood and urine samples were obtained prior to transplantation, on Day 3, Weeks 1–4 and Months 2–6, 12 and 24 after transplant. Serum creatinine measurements were done at 3, 6, 12 and 24 months. Additional study visits occurred whenever a clinically indicated biopsy was scheduled. Blood and urine samples were collected prior to biopsies or associated treatments. Protocol biopsies were read centrally (by I.W.G., University of Manitoba). Clinically indicated biopsies were read locally for clinical management; tissue from the same biopsy was submitted to and read by the central pathology laboratory. We defined biopsy-proven AR as Banff grade ≥1A and, for some analyses, Banff grade suspicious [16]. AR episodes were treated according to local practice.

Surveillance studies for viral infections including BK polyoma virus and cytomegalovirus (CMV) were performed according to local practice at each participating site. Bacterial (e.g. urinary) and viral (e.g. BK polyoma virus, CMV) infections were routinely tested for in patients with acute renal allograft dysfunction as per local standard of care.

Laboratory studies

Urine samples for gene expression, proteomics and chemokines were centrifuged at 2000g for 30 min at 4°C within 4 h of collection. The sediment was washed and stored at −80°C in RNAlater (Life Technologies, Grand Island, NY). Supernatants were divided into aliquots and frozen.

Gene expression profiling

Gene expression profiling by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) was performed at the Cleveland Clinic after consultative assistance/training from M. Suthanthiran [5, 18]. RNA was isolated from urine pellets using the Micro to Midi RNA Purification System (Life Technologies). RNA was reverse transcribed with random hexamers using the TaqMan Reverse Transcription Reagents and normalized to a concentration of 1 µg/100 μL RNA equivalents. Urine cDNA was preamplified for 10 cycles in a 10 µL reaction containing 30 ng cDNA, 1.5 µM of forward and reverse primers for all target genes except 18S, dNTPs, buffer and AmpliTaq Gold DNA Polymerase. Following preamplification, the cDNAs were diluted 10-fold with TE buffer and 2.5 µL of this preamplified cDNA was used for qPCR analysis. TaqMan primers and probes were designed using Applied Biosystems, a division of Life Technologies, Primer Express version 3.0 in either the Suthanthiran or Fairchild lab. Assays for CCL5, IL8 and CXCL10 were custom-designed assays on demand from Applied Biosystems; CCR5 was an inventoried TaqMan assay. All primer sequences (and assay number for CCR5) are shown in Table S1. PCR reactions were performed in duplicate on an Applied Biosystems 7500 Fast System using the fast protocol (95°C for 20 s; 40 cycles of 95°C for 3 s, 60°C for 30 s). Each reaction contained 2.5 µL of cDNA, 10 µL of TaqMan Fast Universal PCR master mix, 300 nM primers and 200 nM probe in 20 µL. Quantities were calculated from a calibration curve using the mouse BAK amplicon as standard [19].

Urine protein profiling with SELDI-TOF-MS

Urine samples were thawed on ice and vortexed. Analysis was performed as described previously [10, 20]. Briefly, 5 µL of urine was applied to normal phase chips (ProteinChip NP20; Ciphergen, Freemont, CA) and incubated for 30 min in a humidity chamber. Spots were then washed three times with 5 µL of HPLC-grade water and air-dried for 10 min. One microliter of 35% a-cyano-4-hydroxycinnamic acid (CHCA; Ciphergen) was applied to each spot and air-dried. Chips were read with a surface-enhanced laser desorption ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometric (SELDI-TOF-MS) instrument (ProteinChip Reader II; Ciphergen) in the positive ion mode with the following settings: laser intensity 215; detector sensitivity 6; detector voltage 1700 V; 240 shots were collected per sample. Calibration was done externally with a mixture of four proteins with masses ranging from 2 to 16 kDa. For comparison, spectra were normalized by total ion current and transformed into gel-view. Urine proteomic profiles were reported as having evidence of cleaved β2-microglobulin peptides present or absent or intact β2-microglobulin present to absent.

Urine was examined for the presence or absence of intact or cleaved β2-microglobulin, which has been associated with tubular injury [2] and AR [1], respectively. In AR, the cleaved but not the intact form of β2-microglobulin was associated with acute clinical rejection (p = 0.05).

Urine ELISA for CXCL9 and CXCL10

Frozen aliquots of urine supernatants were diluted (1:1) in 0.05% Tween-20/0.4% bovine serum albumin in phosphate buffered saline, pH 7.2–7.4, and tested by ELISA for CXCL9 and CXCL10 (R&D Systems, Minneapolis, MN) as per manufacturer's instructions.

Serum creatinine and eGFR

Serum creatinine levels were assayed centrally (Cleveland Clinic) using an IDMS-traceable analyzer (Hitachi Module D/P, Indianapolis, IN). Missing central laboratory sample results (46/404, 11.3%) were imputed from local creatinine values (Pearson's correlation = 0.92 between local and central values). A serum creatinine value of 7 mg/dL was imputed for graft loss. eGFR was calculated at 6 and 24 months posttransplant by the modified four-variable MDRD equation [21] for adults and by the modified Schwartz equation [22] for subjects younger than 18 years old.

Statistical methods

Data are summarized using descriptive statistics for categorical (counts/percentages) and continuous (mean and standard deviations) variables. mRNA and chemokine levels were log10-transformed prior to analysis. Univariate analyses were performed using chi-squared or Fisher exact test for categorical variables and t-tests or analysis of variance (ANOVA) for continuous variables.

Following the general approach of Harrell et al. [23] to avoid overfitting of the models, we sought to reduce the number of candidate markers prior to estimating their association with the outcome. We estimated pairwise Spearman correlations among the nine mRNA markers without reference to any relationships they might have with either of the responses of interest. We made use of all the repeated measures from all the urine samples collected from the study participants over the first 6 months posttransplant. We computed the correlations in two ways: (a) by visit over the 6 months posttransplant and (b) pooled over the visits in the 6 months posttransplant. We focused on those pairwise correlations that indicated strong association (i.e. |ρ| > 0.60) and which remained strongly correlated over the course of the study. Because such correlated markers carry redundant information, a single marker can be selected from a given intercorrelated set based on biological and other considerations without much loss of information. Examination of the correlation matrix in Table S2 indicates that the correlations between granzyme B and CCR5, CCL5 and perforin are all greater than 0.60, suggesting that granzyme B can adequately represent the information contained in the other three markers.

Having reduced the number of candidate markers to a set of markers that carried primarily unique, independent information, we entered them into a multivariable logistic regression model in which the status of a binary endpoint was the binary outcome, for either the AR or the GFR endpoints. This model was fit separately to 500 bootstrap samples of the original study data set with replacement. Each model was reduced by backward elimination to yield 500 reduced models. Any marker that occurred in more than 60% of the reduced models was selected for the final diagnostic model [24]. Optimism-adjusted measures of discrimination (area under the curve [AUC]) and calibration (Cox's slope and intercept and a calibration plot) were obtained from the bootstrap fits [25-28]. This approach of model development with internal bootstrap validation has been shown to provide models that have good generalizability [23, 26, 29]. We used this approach to develop separate diagnostic models for AR as a function of urinary mRNA and urinary proteins. Finally, for a final model based on both mRNA and proteins, only three markers were included: granzyme B, CXCL9 and CXCL10. This final model was validated in 500 bootstrap samples and performance measures and calibration plots were created for that model.

Results

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Acknowledgments
  8. Disclosure
  9. References
  10. Supporting Information

Patient characteristics

We enrolled 282 subjects, 280 of whom underwent transplantation (Table 1, Figure 1), including 40 children (14%), 192 recipients of living donor allografts (69%) and 80 African Americans (29%). Pretransplant peak panel reactive antibody in the cohort was low (12.9 ± 25%), and all patients had negative flow cytometry crossmatches at transplantation.

Table 1. Summary of baseline characteristics for all transplanted subjects
CharacteristicsAll subjects (N = 280)
  1. a

    Eight subjects received both thymoglobulin and anti-IL-2.

  2. CNI, calcineurin inhibitor; PRA, panel reactive antibody.

Donor age
Mean (SD)39.8 (13.02)
Donor gender
Male134 (47.9)
Female146 (52.1)
Donor source
Deceased88 (31.4)
Living192 (68.6)
Recipient age (year)
Mean (SD)43.5 (17.57)
Recipient gender
Male168 (60.0)
Female112 (40.0)
Recipient race
Black or African American80 (28.6)
Other race199 (71.1)
Unknown or not reported1 (0.4)
Patient age group
Adult240 (85.7)
Pediatric40 (14.3)
Peak PRA
Mean (SD)12.9 (24.58)
Peak PRA (categorical)
≤60257 (91.8)
>6023 (8.2)
Number of HLA mismatches
Mean (SD)3.5 (1.81)
Induction therapya
Yes233 (83.2)
No47 (16.8)
Thymoglobulin125 (44.6)
Anti-IL-2116 (41.4)
Maintenance therapy
CNI230 (82.1)
Steroid210 (75.0)
Antimetabolite238 (85.0)
Sirolimus4 (1.4)
Other3 (1.1)
CNI, steroids, antimetabolite184 (65.7)
image

Figure 1. Consort diagram illustrating the outcome of patients throughout the course of the study including numbers and results of biopsies performed and numbers of patients who reached the 24-month endpoint.

Download figure to PowerPoint

Immunosuppression was heterogeneous (Table 1): 83% received induction antibody therapy, and discharge medications included a combination of a CNI, a mycophenolic acid derivative and steroids in 66%. Delayed graft function occurred in 9/192 (4.7%) living donor recipients and 11/88 (12.5%) deceased donor recipients. De novo DSAs developed in 11 patients. For-cause biopsies, performed principally to assess patients with acute kidney dysfunction, were obtained on 160 occasions (99 patients). One hundred and fifty of the 160 biopsies yielded adequate tissue for central readings. We categorized the biopsy findings as AR Banff grade ≥1A, Banff grade “suspicious,” infection or other diagnoses (Table 2). Among biopsies showing AR, six had histologic findings suggesting AMR. Of these, four showed mixed antibody and cellular rejection and two showed pure antibody-mediated changes. Comparison of clinical characteristics associated with AR (Table 3) showed that only HLA mismatches, de novo DSA and recipient African American race were associated with higher rates of rejection.

Table 2. Diagnoses at time of for-cause biopsies
 RejectionNo rejection  
DiagnosisAR Banff >1AAR Banff suspiciousInfectionOther
n37327a74
  1. AR, acute rejection.

  2. a

    Five bacterial urinary tract infections, one BK polyoma virus, one genital herpes, zero cytomegalovirus.

Biopsy findings for infection and other categoriesn (%)
Normal or nonspecific changes44 (54.3)
Acute tubular necrosis8 (9.9)
Focal and segmental glomerulosclerosis5 (6.2)
Chronic interstitial fibrosis, tubular atrophy and/or glomerulosclerosis19 (23.5)
Glomerulonephritis1 (1.2)
Pyelonephritis1 (1.2)
 3 (3.7)
Table 3. Clinical patient characteristics stratified by acute rejection and eGFR endpoints
CharacteristicsAcute rejection,1 yes (N = 53)Acute rejection,1 no (N = 212)pGFR endpoint,2 yes (N = 25)GFR endpoint,2 no (N = 177)p
  • DSA, donor specific antibody; PRA, panel reactive antibody.

  • 1

    Biopsy-proven acute rejection between 0 and 24 months.

  • 2

    Greater than 30% decrease in eGFR between 6 and 24 months.

  • Bolded values are statistically significant at p < 0.05.

Donor age (years)
Mean (SD)39.5 (12.86)39.6 (12.83)0.95738.2 (13.39)40.8 (12.83)0.338
Donor gender
Male25 (47.2)100 (47.2)>0.9997 (28.0)81 (45.8)0.131
Female28 (52.8)112 (52.8) 18 (72.0)96 (54.2) 
Donor type
Deceased21 (39.6)63 (29.7)0.18811 (44.0)47 (26.6)0.097
Living32 (60.4)149 (70.3) 14 (56.0)130 (73.4) 
Recipient age (years)
Mean (SD)41.3 (18.41)44.3 (17.37)0.26035.2 (18.22)44.2 (17.52)0.017
Recipient gender
Male34 (64.2)124 (58.5)0.53210 (40.0)108 (61.0)0.053
Female19 (35.8)88 (41.5) 15 (60.0)69 (39.0) 
Recipient race
Black or African American24 (45.3)51 (24.1)0.0049 (36.0)44 (24.9)0.237
Other race29 (54.7)160 (75.5) 16 (64.0)132 (74.6) 
Unknown or not reported01 (0.5)NA01 (0.6)NA
Recipient age group
Adult42 (79.2)184 (86.8)0.19318 (72.0)152 (85.9)0.084
Pediatric11 (20.8)28 (13.2) 7 (28.0)25 (14.1) 
Peak PRA
Mean (SD)14.0 (28.61)12.5 (23.71)0.70111.8 (27.45)11.1 (22.84)0.887
Number of HLA mismatches
Mean (SD)4.1 (1.49)3.3 (1.86)0.0023.6 (1.55)3.5 (1.76)0.679
Induction therapy
Yes47 (88.7)173 (81.6)0.30622 (88.0)141 (79.7)0.424
No6 (11.3)39 (18.4) 3 (12.0)36 (20.3) 
De novo DSA
Yes6 (11.3)5 (2.4)0.0103 (12.0)5 (2.8)0.062
No47 (88.7)207 (97.6) 22 (88.0)172 (97.2) 

Urinary biomarkers to diagnose AR

To validate and compare urinary biomarkers to diagnose AR, we obtained urine at the time of for-cause biopsies performed for acute graft dysfunction. We performed qRT-PCR on urine sediment RNA and quantified the expression of cDNA for multiple genes previously reported to be elevated during AR: CCR1, CCR5, CXCR3, CCL5 (RANTES), CXCL9 (monokine induced by interferon gamma), CXCL10 (IP-10), IL-8, perforin and granzyme B [2, 5, 7, 8, 18]. Of 2770 urine samples received by the central laboratory, 2095 (76%) yielded RNA of sufficient quality for analysis, underscoring the technical challenges of isolating urinary mRNA.

Using a correlation analysis (Table S2) to assess potential redundancy among urinary mRNA markers, we observed strong correlations among several of the markers, indicating interdependence. We eliminated highly correlated mRNAs with similar biological functions from subsequent analyses (e.g. perforin was eliminated as it strongly correlated with granzyme B and both are produced by cytotoxic T cells). We determined the strength of the relationships between each remaining mRNA and diagnoses in patients for whom urine samples for mRNAs were available. Analyses revealed higher quantities of mRNAs encoding granzyme B and CXCL9 in those with Banff ≥1A rejection (including AMR) compared to those without rejection (Figure 2A). CXCL9 mRNA values were significantly higher in patients with AR than in those with infection. Samples obtained from patients with “suspicious” grade rejection contained intermediate quantities of each of the mRNAs. Quantities of CCR1, CXCL10 and IL-8 did not differ among the groups. To validate that arbitrary removal of redundant markers did not alter the conclusions, we repeated the analyses replacing, for example, granzyme B with perforin and found that perforin behaved similarly to granzyme B (Table S3).

image

Figure 2. Urinary mRNAs as biomarkers for biopsy-proven acute rejection (AR) within the first 6 months posttransplant. (A) Box and whisker plots depicting the median (dash), 25 and 75 percentiles (top and bottom of box)with whiskers extending to 1 and 100 percentile for each gene in patients with infection (Inf), Banff grade suspicious rejection (Susp) Banff grade ≥1A AR or other/no rejection/infection (Other). Results are absolute copy number normalized to the 18S RNA. p-Values are from an ANOVA with Tukey–Kramer multiple comparison corrections. (B) Receiver operator characteristics curves for granzyme B mRNA, CXCL9 mRNA and combined granzyme B + CXCL9 mRNA as diagnostic for Banff grade ≥1A AR using optimal thresholds of granzyme B mRNA = 1.017 × 10−6 and CXCL9 mRNA = 1.925 × 10−6 normalized units (copy number gene/copy number of 18S mRNA). Also see Tables 2, S4 and S5.

Download figure to PowerPoint

We performed logistic regression modeling to clarify the diagnostic utility of urinary granzyme B, CXCL9 and CXCL10 mRNAs for AR, validating results using bootstrap methods (Table 4, Figure 2B). This revealed that quantities of urinary CXCL9 and granzyme B mRNA are each strongly associated with AR but positive predictive values (PPVs) were modest at 61–65%. Including both in the model did not add diagnostic value (Table S4). We repeated the analysis after eliminating biopsies associated with infection and observed no significant change in the diagnostic value of the mRNA markers (Table S5).

Table 4. Logistic regression and bootstrap validation of urinary markers for diagnosing Banff ≥1A acute rejection1
Parameter estimates and testsROC-based discrimination measuresPositive/negative predictive value
Model predictorsOR (95% CI)p-ValueAUCSensitivitySpecificityPPVNPV
  • AUC, area under the curve; PPV, positive predictive value; NPV, negative predictive value; OR, odds ratio; ROC, receiver operator characteristics. See Supplemental Statistical Methods for details.

  • 1

    Additional models with and without “suspicious” rejection are shown in Tables S2 and S3.

Univariate models
Granzyme B mRNA2.26 (1.30, 3.92)0.00390.73070.881.665.485.1
CXCL9 mRNA2.77 (1.59, 4.80)0.00030.78866.779.661.583.0
CXCL9 protein3.40 (2.12, 5.47)<0.00010.85685.280.767.692.0
CXCL10 protein3.25 (1.89, 5.57)<0.00010.76874.186.071.487.5
Multivariate models
CXCL9 protein3.06 (1.82, 5.16)<0.00010.86487.082.271.492.5
Granzyme B mRNA1.57 (0.83, 2.99)0.1696     
CXCL9 protein2.88 (1.68, 4.93)0.00010.88582.686.776.090.7
CXCL9 mRNA1.95 (1.01, 3.73)0.0454     
CXCL9 protein2.89 (1.68, 4.96)0.00010.86987.084.474.192.7
CXCL9 mRNA2.04 (0.83, 5.00)0.1205     
Granzyme B mRNA0.94 (0.38, 2.32)0.8842     

We also determined the strength of the relationships between CXCL9 and CXCL10 proteins in 2760 urinary supernatants (99% yielded interpretable measurements) and the diagnoses in patients for whom urine samples for the urinary proteins were available (Figure 3A). Mean values for CXCL10 protein were similar in patients with AR and infection, but values for CXCL9 protein were higher in patients with AR versus those with infection or other diagnoses. Logistical regression modeling and bootstrap validation (Table 4) showed that CXCL9 protein diagnosed rejection with an AUC = 0.856, PPV = 67.6% and NPV = 92.0%. Adding CXCL10 protein to the model did not enhance diagnostic utility (Table S4). Eliminating infectious etiologies improved the PPV to 73.3% for AR (Table S5).

image

Figure 3. Urinary CXCL9 and CXCL10 protein as biomarkers for biopsy-proven acute rejection (AR) and an incipient decrement in GFR. (A) Box and whisker plots depicting the median (dash), 25 and 75 percentiles (top and bottom of box) with whiskers extending to 0 and 100 percentile for urinary CXCL9 and CXCL10 protein in patients infection (Inf), Banff grade suspicious rejection (Susp), Banff grade ≥1A AR or other/no rejection/infection (Other). p-Values are from an ANOVA with Tukey–Kramer multiple comparison corrections. (B) Receiver operator characteristics curves CXCL9 protein ± granzyme B RNA or CXCL9 mRNA as diagnostic for Banff grade ≥1A AR (optimal threshold for CXCL9 protein is 35 pg/mL). See Tables 2, S4 and S5 for additional details. (C) Dot plot depicting individual urinary CXCL9 protein values obtained within 30 days prior to a for-cause biopsy, at the time of the biopsy or within 30 days after the for-cause biopsy in patients biopsied for suspected rejection, stratified by presence (red) or absence (blue) of Banff grade ≥1A AR on the biopsy. Dashed line depicts the mean for each set. *p < 0.0001 versus values for AR (red) at that time point. (D) Dot plot correlating 6-month urinary CXCL9 obtained during clinical quiescence with subsequent diagnosis of AR between 6 and 24 months. (E) Dot plot correlating individual values of 6-month urinary CXCL9 with individual “i” and “t” scores from simultaneous surveillance biopsies. p-Value of <0.0001 refers to an ANOVA comparing the means across Banff scores for each panel.

Download figure to PowerPoint

When we modeled combinations of urinary mRNA and proteins (Table 4, Figure 3B), we found that the combination of CXCL9 protein plus CXCL9 mRNA provided the best results. The usefulness of CXCL9 protein for ruling out rejection (NPV 92.5%) was not impacted by recipient age, HLA mismatch, race or the presence of de novo DSAs (not shown).

To test whether elevated urinary CXCL9 predates the onset of graft dysfunction that precipitated the for-cause biopsies, we analyzed urinary CXCL9 protein in samples obtained prior to the diagnostic biopsies (Figure 3C). We observed elevated CXCL9 concentrations in those with histologically diagnosed AR up to 30 days prior to clinical recognition of graft dysfunction. Urinary CXCL9 values fell within 30 days after treatment (Figure 3C), strengthening the relationship between urinary CXCL9 and graft inflammation.

We examined whether the urinary markers correlated with histological evidence of early progressive graft injury as determined by (a) an increase in Banff chronic sum score ≥2 or (b) an increase in interstitial fibrosis of ≥15%, between the implantation and 6-month surveillance biopsies (n = 156 patients with evaluable biopsies at both time points). These analyses revealed no significant associations among these histological endpoints and any of the markers tested at any time point (alone or in combination, data not shown). Nor were there significant relationships between the absence of any/all of the markers and stability of graft histology (not shown). Together with the previous data, the results suggest that measurements of urinary CXCL9 strongly indicate the presence or absence of active inflammation in the graft.

Previous single-center studies indicated that SELDI-TOF-MS detection of intact and cleaved β2-microglobulin in urine could distinguish AR from other diagnoses [10, 11]. Our analyses correlating urinary proteomic profiles with the presence of AR in all (for-cause plus surveillance) biopsies trended toward, but did not reach, statistical significance (p = 0.09, n = 188, data not shown).

Six-month urinary CXCL9 stratifies patients into low- versus high-risk subsets for future allograft injury

We tested whether urinary biomarkers measured during clinical quiescence differentiate individuals at risk for future AR. These analyses uncovered a relationship between 6-month urinary CXCL9 and subsequent AR, 6–24 months posttransplant (Figure 3D). Statistical analysis showed odds ratio (OR) = 4.695, sensitivity 83%, specificity 84%, p = 0.005, AUC = 0.88, NPV = 99.3%, PPV 14.7%, independent of age, race, gender, previous AR or DSA (not shown), further supporting the clinical value of the test. None of the patients with low values developed rejection.

We also examined whether 6-month urinary CXCL9 stratified patients into those at high versus low risk for developing late graft dysfunction. We prespecified a clinically significant, >30% decrease in eGFR between 6 and 24 months posttransplant as the endpoint. Twenty-five of 202 evaluable patients (12%) met the endpoint (Table 3). Whereas none of the urinary mRNAs were informative (not shown), our analyses revealed a significant relationship between concentrations of urinary CXCL9 protein obtained at 6 months posttransplant and the GFR endpoint (Table 5). We found that absence of CXCL9 identified those destined to maintain stable renal function with high accuracy, independent of donor type, recipient age or gender, DSA at or before 6 months or 6-month eGFR (Table 5).

Table 5. Logistic regression and bootstrap validation of 6-month urinary CXCL9 as a correlate of reaching the GFR endpoint (>30% decrease in eGFR between 6 and 24 months)
n (endpoint+/endpoint−)Parameter estimates and testsROC-based discrimination measuresPositive/negative predictive value
Model predictorsOR (95% CI)p-ValueAUCSensitivitySpecificityPPVNPV
  1. AUC, area under the curve; DSA, donor specific antibody; NPV, negative predictive value; OR, odds ratio; PPV, positive predictive value; ROC, receiver operator characteristics.

23/163CXCL9 protein1.929 (1.300, 2.861)0.00110.68256.576.125.092.5
23/163CXCL9 protein1.956 (1.314, 2.913)0.00100.67260.975.525.993.2
 GFR1.006 (0.985, 1.027)0.5758     
23/163CXCL9 protein1.933 (1.286, 2.907)0.00150.68760.974.225.093.1
 DSA1.033 (0.245, 4.358)0.9650     
23/163CXCL9 protein1.97 (1.32, 2.96)0.00100.74687.057.122.296.9
 Donor type (deceased)2.75 (1.08, 6.96)0.0335     
11/115CXCL9 protein1.94 (1.30, 2.90)0.00110.71156.569.320.691.9
 Recipient age0.97 (0.95, 0.997)0.0299     
10/112CXCL9 protein1.97 (1.32, 2.95)0.00090.72182.646.617.995.0
 Recipient gender (female)2.29 (0.91, 5.75)0.0779     

We obtained 170 six-month protocol biopsies with adequate tissue from the 202 patients who completed the study. Subclinical AR Banff grade ≥1A was observed in eight patients. When we correlated urinary CXCL9 protein concentrations with individual inflammation (“i”) and tubulitis (“t”) components of the acute Banff scores (Figure 3E), we observed a direct relationship between the scores and urine CXCL9 protein. This relationship persisted for “t” scores when patients with AR on the biopsy were eliminated from the analysis (Figure S1).

Discussion

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Acknowledgments
  8. Disclosure
  9. References
  10. Supporting Information

This unique multicenter study of 280 kidney transplant recipients indicates that urine biomarkers have utility for ruling out AR in kidney transplant recipients with acute graft dysfunction and for identifying patients likely to maintain stable allograft function without rejection episodes. Extending and independently validating previous work by others [2, 5, 18], we showed that measurements of urinary cell-derived granzyme B and CXCL9 mRNA each have utility for diagnosing AR in patients with graft dysfunction, but with PPVs of 61–67% positive urinary markers are unlikely to overcome the need for a diagnostic biopsy. In contrast, the high NPVs (>92%) suggest that it may be possible to avoid diagnostic biopsies in patients with impaired kidney function but low urine cell granzyme B/CXCL9 mRNA concentrations, because AR is highly unlikely. The bootstrap validations showed no diagnostic benefit of combining granzyme B and CXCL9 mRNAs over CXCL9 mRNA alone, consistent with the concept that both are produced by inflammatory infiltrates that mediate cellular AR.

In addition to demonstrating that low urinary CXCL9 protein could be used to rule out AR, our new data suggest that measurements of urinary CXCL9 protein are better than the urinary mRNAs tested for this purpose. The apparent superiority of CXCL9 protein is likely due to technical limitations of isolating high-quality mRNA from urine samples. This, along with the familiarity of clinical laboratories with ELISAs, favors using CXCL9 protein over mRNA as a noninvasive test to diagnose AR.

Combined measurements of CXCL9 protein and CXCL9 mRNA provided the best PPV (71.4%) and NPV (92.5%) for diagnosing (or ruling out) AR, suggesting that more sensitive (potentially earlier) detection of mRNA elevations enhances diagnostic utility. The kinetic observations showing that urinary CXCL9 protein is elevated ∼30 days prior to clinical detection of AR (Figure 3C) indicate that CXCL9 can detect intragraft inflammation before overt renal dysfunction occurs, possibly permitting earlier therapy. We also observed that urinary CXCL9 protein levels decrease after treatment for rejection (Figure 3C), suggesting that serial measurements may be useful to identify adequate resolution of AR; additional studies are needed to confirm this.

Consistent with the concept that urinary CXCL9 detects subclinical injury, we observed that its presence in 6-month posttransplant urine samples (in the absence of clinically discernible graft dysfunction) correlated directly with biopsy evidence of tubulitis (Figure 3E), and its absence stratified patients into low-risk subgroups for future AR. Infections, especially those that directly involve the urinary tract or renal parenchyma (e.g. BK polyoma virus nephropathy or bacterial urinary tract infection), can elevate urinary CXCL9 [30]. Although the prevalence of infection coincident with acute graft dysfunction in our cohort was low, our data show that patients with AR have higher levels of urinary CXCL9 than those with infection. In clinical practice, BK viral infection and urinary tract infections can be readily diagnosed, and should be ruled out in any patient with graft dysfunction. Low urinary CXCL9 protein in patients with renal dysfunction strongly correlates with absence of AR or infection; confirmation of this relationship in a prospective study might preclude the need for a biopsy in many patients.

Another novel result is that low 6-month urinary CXCL9 protein identifies patients without subclinical allograft injury and who are most likely to maintain stable kidney function. The data support the need for testing the utility of urinary CXCL9 protein measurements as a safety net to guide changes in immunosuppression.

Overall, the results from CTOT-01 indicate that urinary CXCL9 protein is an excellent marker for excluding acute kidney allograft rejection and for stratifying patients in low- versus high-risk subsets for incipient allograft injury. Low urinary CXCL9 indicates low acute immunological risk and is a valuable biomarker to identify patients destined to display stable long-term allograft function.

Acknowledgments

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Acknowledgments
  8. Disclosure
  9. References
  10. Supporting Information

The study was supported by National Institutes of Health U01 grant AI63594-06 awarded to P. Heeger. The CTOT-01 consortium members thank the following personnel for the support of the work: Cincinnati Children's Hospital, Cincinnati, OH: Barbara Logan; Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, OH: Jennifer Czerr and Leslie Iosue; Emory University Medical Center, Atlanta, GA: Brandi Johnson, Margret Kamel and Amy S. Newell; Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY: Dean Firkus, Brandy Haydel, Neha Karajgikhar, Sherif Mikhail, Katya Ostrow, Yasir Qureshi, Jason Rothfeld, Jennifer Smar, Paulina Trzcinka, Rosie Wickham, Tina Yao and Praeophayom Wauhop; University Hospitals Case Medical Center, Cleveland, OH: Victoria Rodriguez, Maureen Tessman and Tracey Lee; University of Manitoba, Winnipeg Manitoba, Canada: Jennifer Bestland, Iga Dembinski, Shirley Frederickson, Susan McMurrich and Myrna Ross.

Disclosure

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Acknowledgments
  8. Disclosure
  9. References
  10. Supporting Information

The authors of this manuscript have no conflicts of interest to disclose as described by the American Journal of Transplantation.

References

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Acknowledgments
  8. Disclosure
  9. References
  10. Supporting Information

Supporting Information

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Acknowledgments
  8. Disclosure
  9. References
  10. Supporting Information

Additional Supporting Information may be found in the online version of this article at the publisher's web site.

FilenameFormatSizeDescription
ajt12426-0001-sm-SuppData.docx52K

Figure S1: Dot plot correlating individual values of 6 months urinary CXCL9 with individual “i” and “t” scores from simultaneous surveillance biopsies excluding those with Banff >1A rejection on the protocol biopsy. p-Values of 0.0673 and 0.0261 refer to ANOVAs comparing the means across Banff scores for each panel.

Table S1: PCR primer sequences.

Table S2: Correlation coefficients among urinary mRNAs tested (correlations >0.5 are in bold type).

Table S3: Logistic regression models substituting perforin mRNA for granzyme B mRNA to diagnose Banff >1A acute rejection.

Table S4: Multivariate logistic regression models correlating urinary biomarkers with Banff >1A rejection.

Table S5: Multivariate logistic regression models correlating urinary biomarkers with Banff >1A rejection removing all cases of infection.

Please note: Wiley Blackwell is not responsible for the content or functionality of any supporting information supplied by the authors. Any queries (other than missing content) should be directed to the corresponding author for the article.