Apoptosis occurs in human cardiac allograft rejection and may occur with all degrees of rejection and even in its absence. The prevalence and severity of apoptosis is determined predominantly by the intensity of macrophage infiltration and may be mediated by NO-related mechanisms. Apoptosis of interstitial, endothelial, and inflammatory cells is also present in heart allografts and may influence the degree and extent of vascular injury contributing to allograft rejection. Ongoing apoptosis of inflammatory cells suggests an immunoregulatory role. Studies of the involvement of NO in myocyte damage and Fas-FasL interactions in peripheral tolerance have raised the exciting possibility that these pathways can be exploited in a beneficial way. Further understanding of the role of apoptosis and the cellular and biochemical mechanisms that are involved in cardiac myocyte death and in inflammatory, endothelial, and interstitial cell death may provide insights into therapeutic modalities to suppress allograft rejection and vasculopathy.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported in part by the St. Paul's Hospital Foundation and a grant-in-aid from the Heart and Stroke Foundation of British Columbia and Yukon (BMM).