Pathologic characteristics of transplanted kidney xenografts

Akira Shimizu, Kazuhiko Yamada, Simon C. Robson, David H. Sachs, Robert B. Colvin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


For xenotransplantation to become a clinical reality, we need to better understand the mechanisms of graft rejection or acceptance. We examined pathologic changes in α1,3-galactosyltransferase geneknockout pig kidneys transplanted into baboons that were treated with a protocol designed to induce immunotolerance through thymic transplantation (n=4) or were treated with long-term immunosuppressants (n=3). Hyperacute rejection did not occur in α1,3-galactosyltransferase gene-knockout kidney xenografts. By 34 days, acute humoral rejection led to xenograft loss in all three xenografts in the long-term immunosuppression group. The failing grafts exhibited thrombotic microangiopathic glomerulopathy with multiple platelet-fibrin microthrombi, focal interstitial hemorrhage, and acute cellular xenograft rejection. Damaged glomeruli showed IgM, IgG, C4d, and C5b-9 deposition. They also demonstrated endothelial cell death, diffuse endothelial procoagulant activation with high expression of tissue factor and vWF, and low expression of the ectonucleotidase CD39. In contrast, in the immunotolerance group, two of four grafts had normal graft function and no pathologic findings of acute or chronic rejection at 56 and 83 days. One of the remaining kidneys had mild but transient graft dysfunction with reversible, mild microangiopathic glomerulopathy, probably associated with preformed antibodies. The other kidney in the immunotolerance group developed unstable graft function at 81 days and developed chronic xenograft glomerulopathy. In summary, the success of pig-to-primate xenotransplantation may necessitate immune tolerance to inhibit acute humoral and cellular xenograft rejection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)225-235
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the American Society of Nephrology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nephrology


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