Mouse-to-rabbit xenotransplantation: A new small animal model of hyperacute rejection mediated by the classical complement pathway

Stephen R. Kerr, Agustin P. Dalmasso, Elena V. Apasova, Sally S. Chen, Michael Kirschfink, Arthur J. Matas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background. Hyperacute rejection of porcine organs transplanted into primate recipients is initiated by the binding of preformed xenoreactive natural antibodies to the vascular endothelium of the graft and activation of the classical complement pathway. Several small animal models are currently employed to study various aspects of xenograft rejection; however, none has been shown to manifest hyperacute rejection mediated by the classical pathway of complement activation. Methods. We performed heterotopic mouse heart transplants into weanling rabbits, adult rabbits, and C6-deficient rabbits. The recipients received no immunosuppression. Rejected grafts were subjected to histologic analysis and immunofluorescence staining for rabbit IgG, IgM, and C3. Levels of preexisting cytotoxic antibodies as well as classical and alternative complement pathway activities were determined in rabbit serum using mouse red cells as targets. Results. Mean graft survival was 37±9.6 min for mouse-to-weanling rabbit transplants (n=10), and 40±11.1 min for mouse-to-adult rabbit transplants (n=5). Rejected grafts showed diffuse interstitial hemorrhage, endothelial cell damage, myocyte necrosis, moderate diffuse deposition of rabbit IgG, and dense deposition of rabbit IgM and C3 on the vascular endothelium of the graft, consistent with hyperacute rejection. One mouse-to-C6-deficient rabbit transplant was rejected at 21 hr with severe interstitial hemorrhage, cellular necrosis and a moderate cellular infiltrate consisting primarily of neutrophils and some mononuclear cells. A second transplant in a C6-deficient rabbit was functioning when the recipient died at 6.5 hr as a result of complications of surgery; the graft had normal myocytes and vasculature with minimal spotty interstitial hemorrhage. Both weanling and adult rabbit serum were found to have high titers of cytotoxic IgM anti-mouse antibodies and strong classical complement pathway activity with minimal alternative pathway activity towards mouse red cells. Conclusions. The mouse-to-rabbit species combination manifests hyperacute xenograft rejection. In vitro studies suggest that this process is mediated by IgM anti-mouse natural antibodies and activation of the classical pathway of complement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)360-365
Number of pages6
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 15 1999


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