We performed RNA sequencing (RNAseq) on peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) to identify differentially expressed gene transcripts (DEGs) after kidney transplantation and after the start of immunosuppressive drugs. RNAseq is superior to microarray to determine DEGs because it's not limited to available probes, has increased sensitivity, and detects alternative and previously unknown transcripts. DEGs were determined in 32 adult kidney recipients, without clinical acute rejection (AR), treated with antibody induction, calcineurin inhibitor, mycophenolate, with and without steroids. Blood was obtained pre-transplant (baseline), week 1, months 3 and 6 post-transplant. PBMCs were isolated, RNA extracted and gene expression measured using RNAseq. Principal components (PCs) were computed using a surrogate variable approach. DEGs post-transplant were identified by controlling false discovery rate (FDR) at < 0.01 with at least a 2 fold change in expression from pre-transplant. The top 5 DEGs with higher levels of transcripts in blood at week 1 were TOMM40L, TMEM205, OLFM4, MMP8, and OSBPL9 compared to baseline. The top 5 DEGs with lower levels at week 1 post-transplant were IL7R, KLRC3, CD3E, CD3D, and KLRC2 (Striking Image) compared to baseline. The top pathways from genes with lower levels at 1 week post-transplant compared to baseline, were T cell receptor signaling and iCOS-iCOSL signaling while the top pathways from genes with higher levels than baseline were axonal guidance signaling and LXR/RXR activation. Gene expression signatures at month 3 were similar to week 1. DEGs at 6 months post-transplant create a different gene signature than week 1 or month 3 post-transplant. RNAseq analysis identified more DEGs with lower than higher levels in blood compared to baseline at week 1 and month 3. The number of DEGs decreased with time post-transplant. Further investigations to determine the specific lymphocyte(s) responsible for differential gene expression may be important in selecting and personalizing immune suppressant drugs and may lead to targeted therapies.
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© 2015 Dorr et al.