Despite more than two decades of use, the optimal maintenance dose of tacrolimus for kidney transplant recipients is unknown. We hypothesized that HLA class II de novo donor-specific antibody (dnDSA) development correlates with tacrolimus trough levels and the recipient's individualized alloimmune risk determined by HLA-DR/DQ epitope mismatch. A cohort of 596 renal transplant recipients with 50,011 serial tacrolimus trough levels had HLA-DR/DQ eplet mismatch determined using HLAMatchmaker software. Weanalyzed the frequency of tacrolimus trough levels belowa series of thresholds,6 ng/ml and the mean tacrolimus levels before dnDSA development in the context of HLA-DR/DQ eplet mismatch. HLA-DR/DQ eplet mismatch was a significant multivariate predictor of dnDSA development. Recipients treated with a cyclosporin regimen had a 2.7-fold higher incidence of dnDSA development than recipients on a tacrolimus regimen. Recipients treated with tacrolimus who developed HLA-DR/DQ dnDSA had a higher proportion of tacrolimus trough levels ,5 ng/ml, which continued to be significant after adjustment for HLA-DR/DQ eplet mismatch. Mean tacrolimus trough levels in the 6 months before dnDSA development were significantly lower than the levels .6 months before dnDSA development in the same patients. Recipients with a highrisk HLA eplet mismatch score were less likely to tolerate low tacrolimus levels without developing dnDSA. We conclude that HLA-DR/DQ eplet mismatch and tacrolimus trough levels are independent predictors of dnDSA development. Recipients with highHLA alloimmune risk should not target tacrolimus levels,5 ng/ml unless essential, and monitoring for dnDSA may be advisable in this setting.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
C.W.receivedfunding fromaResearchManitobaoperating grant.P.W.N. is funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research and received salary support from the Flynn Family Chair in Renal Transplantation.