Long-term success in xenotransplantation is currently hampered by acute vascular rejection. The inciting cause of acute vascular rejection is not yet known; however, a variety of observations suggest that the humoral immune response of the recipient against the donor may be involved in the pathogenesis of this process. Using a pig-to-baboon heterotopic cardiac transplant model, we examined the role of antibodies in the development of acute vascular rejection. After transplantation into baboons, hearts from transgenic pigs expressing human decay-accelerating factor and CD59 underwent acute vascular rejection leading to graft failure within 5 d; the histology was characterized by endothelial injury and fibrin thrombi. Hearts from the transgenic pigs transplanted into baboons whose circulating antibodies were depleted using antiimmunoglobulin columns (Therasorb, Unterschleisshein, Germany) did not undergo acute vascular rejection in five of six cases. Biopsies from the xenotransplants in Ig-depleted baboons revealed little or no IgM or IgG, and no histologic evidence of acute vascular rejection in the five cases. Complement activity in the baboons was within the normal range during the period of xenograft survival. In one case, acute vascular rejection of a xenotransplant occurred in a baboon in which the level of antidonor antibody rose after Ig depletion was discontinued. This study provides evidence that antibodies play a significant role in the pathogenesis of acute vascular rejection, and suggests that acute vascular rejection might be prevented or treated by therapies aimed at the humoral immune response to porcine antigens.
- Graft rejection
- Heterologous transplantation (xenotransplantation)
- Heterophile antibodies (xenoreactive antibodies)