Microchimerism and rejection in clinical transplantation

Eric T. Elwood, Christian P. Larsen, David H. Maurer, Kristine L. Routenberg, John F. Neylan, John D. Whelchel, David P. O'Brien, Thomas C. Pearson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

131 Scopus citations


Background. Haemopoietic microchimerism has been identified in recipients of solid-organ transplants and is thought by some to be critical for the development and maintenance of immunological tolerance. The aim of this study was to correlate prospectively the persistence of donor cells with clinical outcome in recipients of kidney, kidney and pancreas, and liver transplants. Methods. Persistence of donor cells in recipient peripheral blood was assessed at 3 days, and at 1, 3, 6, and 12 months after transplantation by a two-stage nested PCR technique to detect donor MHC HLA DR gene specifically. A pretransplant blood sample was collected from each patient to serve as an individual negative control. Seven liver, six kidney and pancreas, and 17 kidney patients were enrolled. 12 of the 17 kidney patients and all of the kidney and pancreas, and liver recipients were suitable for analysis. Exact matches for donors and recipients at the HLA DR loci (n = 1) or inability to obain primer pair specificity among similar HLA DR types (n = 4), meant that we were unable to analyse five patients. Findings. Donor DNA was detected in 20 (80%) of 25, ten (40%) of 25, seven (30%) of 23, five (22%) of 23, and six (32%) of 19 recipients at 3 days, and 1, 3, 6 and 12 months post-transplant, respectively. Within individuals, the detection of donor DNA varied over time; only two patients had detectable donor DNA at all times. Analysis of the whole group of transplant patients showed a similar frequency and severity of rejection episodes in patients with and without microchimerism as defined by detectable donor DR genes. Interpretation. These data suggest that a significant percentage of the recipients had persistent donor class II DNA in the peripheral circulation for at least 1 year after transplantation. We showed that a pretransplant blood sample is critical to avoid a false-positive result, and suggest that detectable chimerism may vary over time in individual patients. Therefore, analysis of microchimerism with a single, post-transplant analysis may not help in making clinical decisions for individual patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1358-1360
Number of pages3
Issue number9062
StatePublished - May 10 1997

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by a grant from Baxter Healthcare. We thank John Moran, Robert Gordon, and Andrei Stieber for their support with this project, and Dianne Miller for assistance with preparation of the manuscript.


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