B4GALNT2 and xenotransplantation: A newly appreciated xenogeneic antigen

Guerard Byrne, Saadullah Ahmad-Villiers, Zeji Du, Christopher McGregor

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


Analysis of non-Gal antibody induced after pig-to-baboon cardiac xenotransplantation identified the glycan produced by porcine beta-1,4-N-acetyl-galactosaminyltransferase 2 (B4GALNT2) as an immunogenic xenotransplantation antigen. The porcine B4GALNT2 enzyme is homologous to the human enzyme, which synthesizes the human SDa blood group antigen. Most humans produce low levels of anti-SDa IgM which polyagglutinates red blood cells from rare individuals with high levels of SDa expression. The SDa glycan is also present on GM2 gangliosides. Clinical GM2 vaccination studies for melanoma patients suggest that a human antibody response to SDa can be induced. Expression of porcine B4GALNT2 in human HEK293 cells results in increased binding of anti-SDa antibody and increased binding of Dolichos biflorus agglutinin (DBA), a lectin commonly used to detect SDa. In pigs, B4GALNT2 is expressed by vascular endothelial cells and endothelial cells from a wide variety of pig backgrounds stain with DBA, suggesting that porcine vascular expression of B4GALNT2 is not polymorphic. Mutations in B4GALNT2 have been engineered in mice and pigs. In both species, the B4GALNT2-KO animals are apparently normal and no longer show evidence of SDa antigen expression. Pig tissues with a mutation in B4GALNT2, added to a background of alpha-1,3-galactosyltransferase deficient (GGTA1-KO) and cytidine monophosphate-N-acetylneuraminic acid hydroxylase deficient (CMAH-KO), show reduced antibody binding, confirming the presence of B4GALNT2-dependent antibodies in both humans and non-human primates. Preclinical xenotransplantation using B4GALNT2-deficient donors has recently been reported. Elimination of this source of immunogenic pig antigen should minimize acute injury by preformed anti-pig antibody and eliminate an induced clinical immune response to this newly appreciated xenotransplantation antigen.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12394
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
NIH Grant AI66310, MRC Grant MR/R006393, and the NIHR UCL Biomedical Research Centre.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 The Authors. Xenotransplantation Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd


  • antibody-mediated rejection
  • beta-1,4-N-acetyl-galactosaminyltransferase 2
  • cardiac xenotransplantation
  • genetic modification
  • xenotransplantation


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