Background Donor-specific HLA antibodies (DSA) are associated with increased rates of rejection and of graft failure in cardiac transplantation. The goal of this study was to determine the association of preformed and posttransplant development of newly detected DSA (ndDSA) with antibody-mediated rejection (AMR) and characterize the clinical relevance of complement-activating DSA in heart allograft recipients. Methods The study included 128 adult and 48 pediatric heart transplant patients transplanted between 2010 and 2013. Routine posttransplant HLA antibody testing was performed by IgG single-antigen bead test. The C3d single-antigen bead assay was used to identify complement-activating antibodies. Rejection was diagnosed using International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation criteria. Results In this study, 22 patients were transplanted with preexisting DSA, and 43 patients developed ndDSA posttransplant. Pretransplant (P < 0.05) and posttransplant (P < 0.001) ndDSA were associated with higher incidence of AMR. Patients with C3d + DSA had significantly higher incidence of AMR compared with patients with no DSA (P < 0.001) or patients with C3d-DSA (P = 0.02). Nine (36%) of 25 patients with AMR developed transplant coronary artery disease compared with 17 (15.9%) of 107 patients without AMR (P < 0.05). Among the 47 patients who received ventricular assistant device (VAD), 7 of 9 VAD+ patients with preformed DSA experienced AMR compared with 7 of 38 VAD+ patients without preformed DSA, indicating presensitization to donor HLA significantly increased the risk of AMR (P < 0.01). Conclusions Preformed and posttransplant ndDSA were associated with AMR. C3d + DSA correlates with complement deposition on the graft and higher risk of AMR which may permit the application of personalized immunotherapy targeting the complement pathway.
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