Additive value of immunologic monitoring to histologic grading of heart allograft biopsy specimens: implications for therapy.

Publication/Presentation Date



BACKGROUND: Currently the sole method available for diagnosis of heart allograft rejection is endomyocardial biopsy. Although this procedure offers important criteria for treatment, it cannot always discriminate between mild episodes of rejection which might be self-limiting and forms which may progress. In an effort to monitor rejection, we have implemented a cellular monitoring strategy aimed at identifying episodes of rejection in biopsy specimens which may evolve into higher grades of rejection. The lymphocyte growth assay is based on the capacity of interleukin-2 receptor-positive T cells to expand in the presence of interleukin-2 and antigen provided by the biopsy fragment. In this study we investigated whether a positive lymphocyte growth assay correlated with and was predictive of subsequent histologic allograft rejection and the development of anti-human leukocyte antigen antibodies.

METHODS: Lymphocyte growth assay was performed on 437 biopsy specimens from 76 patients. Patients with mild allograft rejection defined as grade 2 rejection were randomized to treatment according to the results of the lymphocyte growth assay. Anti-human leukocyte antigen antibodies was also measured monthly. Cells grown from the biopsy specimens were tested against the donor cells and allopeptides derived from the donor human leukocyte antigen-DR.

RESULTS: A highly significant correlation was observed between the histologic grade of rejection and growth of graft infiltrating cells (p < 0.0001). Lymphocyte growth occurred in 10% of grade 0 versus 60% of grade 3A biopsy specimens. Only 4% of histologically negative cases with negative lymphocyte growth assay progressed to rejection in the next month. In the randomized study in which treatment was based on the lymphocyte growth assay results, progressive rejection occurred in three of four cases with positive lymphocyte growth assay versus only 1 of 11 with a negative lymphocyte growth assay (p < 0.001). A highly significant correlation was found between a positive lymphocyte growth assay and subsequent development of antihuman leukocyte antigen antibodies (p < 0.0006). This finding indicates that cellular rejection evidenced by lymphocyte growth assay ultimately results in humoral antihuman leukocyte antigen antibody mediated rejection. Limiting dilution analysis showed that although the direct recognition pathway prevails in early rejection, cells participating in the indirect pathway also proliferate vigorously in the graft during rejection.

CONCLUSIONS: Monitoring of rejection with lymphocyte growth assay is a simple method which provides prognostic information on the outcome of cardiac allografts. Lymphocyte growth assay correlates with histologic rejection and is predictive of future histologic rejection episodes. Lymphocyte growth assay also predicts subsequent development of antihuman leukocyte antigen antibodies and thus may provide a useful method for ascertaining the onset of chronic rejection.




6 Pt 1

First Page


Last Page





Medicine and Health Sciences




Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine

Document Type