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Keywords:

  • operational tolerance;
  • pediatric liver transplantation;
  • tolerance marker;
  • γδ-T cells;
  • regulatory T cells

Abstract

A prospective identification of the estimated 20–50% of pediatric LTX recipients developing operational tolerance would be of great clinical advantage. So far markers of immune tolerance – T-cell subpopulations or gene expression profiles – have been investigated only retrospectively in successfully weaned patients. Fifty children aged 8–265 months (median 89) were investigated 1–180 months (median 44) after LTX under ongoing immunosuppression. T-cell subpopulations were measured during regular post-transplant visits using FACS (Vδ1- vs. Vδ2-γδ-T cells and Tregs). A Vδ1/Vδ2-γδ-T-cell ratio ≥1.42 previously reported in operational tolerance was found in 12 of 50 (24%) patients. In analogy, a Treg count ≥44 per μL was found in 35 of 50 (70%) patients and a Treg proportion ≥2.23% of CD3+-T cells in 39 of 50 (78%) patients. Only 9 of 50 patients (18%) fulfilled both criteria. The parameters Vδ1/Vδ2-γδ-T-cell ratio and Tregs were not significantly correlated to each other or with donor type or immunosuppression. Vδ1/Vδ2-γδ-T-cell ratio was more stable in serial examinations compared with Treg analyses. The observed proportion of 18% pediatric LTX patients with potential operational tolerance is in accordance with previous reports. However, clinical experience shows that rejections may happen even after long-time weaning of immunosuppression. This suggests that operational tolerance is a dynamic process, with uncertain prediction by Vδ1/Vδ2-γδ-T-cell ratio and/or Tregs under immunosuppression.