Background - Activation of T cells induces immunoglobulin (Ig)M-to-IgG B-cell isotype switching via costimulatory regulatory pathways. Because rejection of transplanted organs is preceded by alloantigen-dependent T-cell activation, we investigated whether B-cell isotype switching could predict acute cellular rejection and the subsequent development of transplantation-related coronary artery disease (TCAD) in cardiac transplant recipients. Methods and Results - Among 267 nonsensitized heart transplant recipients, switching from IgM to IgG anti-human leukocyte antigens (HLA) antibodies directed against class II but not against class I antigens was associated with a shorter duration to high-grade rejection, defined as International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation grade 3A or higher (P<0.001), a higher cumulative rejection frequency (P=0.002), accelerated development of TCAD (P=0.04), and decreased late survival (P=0.03). Conversely, the persistence of IgM anti-HLA antibodies against class II but not against class I antigens for >30 days and the lack of IgG isotype switching were associated with protection against both acute rejection (P=0.02) and TCAD (P=0.05). Alloisotype switching coincided with T-cell activation, as evidenced by increased serum levels of soluble CD40 ligand costimulatory molecules. Finally, a case-control study showed that reduction of cardiac allograft rejection by mycophenolic acid was accompanied by reduced CD40 ligand serum levels and the prevention of IgM-to-IgG anti-HLA class II antibody switching. Conclusions - T-cell-dependent B-cell isotype switching and the consequent production of IgG anti-HLA class II antibodies are strongly correlated with acute cellular rejection, a high incidence of recurrent rejections, TCAD, and poor long-term survival. Detecting this isotype switch is a clinically useful surrogate marker for in vivo T-cell activation and may provide a noninvasive approach for monitoring the efficacy of T-cell targeted immunosuppressive therapy in heart transplant recipients.
- Coronary disease