Nodular B-Cell Aggregates Associated with Treatment Refractory Renal Transplant Rejection Resolved by Rituximab

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Abstract

Acute rejection episodes leading to treatment refractory early graft loss are increasingly rare events in living related renal transplantation today. Pathophysiologic pathways often remain unsolved. We report on tubulointerstitial and vascular rejection developing within 2 weeks after transplantation in a 12-year-old boy treated with cyclosporine, mycophenolate, steroids and double blinded basiliximab. Despite steroid pulses, switch to tacrolimus and ATG serum creatinine peaked at 347 μmol/L with imminent graft loss and ongoing C4d negative cellular vascular rejection. Permanent gain of function was only achieved after a single dose of rituximab. Retrospectively CD20+ nodular B-cell aggregates could be demonstrated in all three biopsies obtained prior to rituximab and resolved concomitantly with functional improvement. Our case for the first time demonstrates resolution of nodular CD20+ infiltrates and decline of OX40, NF-κB and CTL transcription shortly after rituximab indicating a B-cell facilitated C4d negative pathway. Single dose rituximab may effectively reverse even long-lasting refractory rejection.

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