BACKGROUND - Vigorous antibody-mediated responses prevent the successful engraftment of hamster hearts transplanted into Lewis rats. Early antibody responses mediating acute rejection of the xenograft are T cell-independent and resistant to the T-cell immunosuppressant, cyclosporine (CsA). Immunosuppression with the combination of leflunomide plus CsA completely prevents xenograft rejection, but when such immunosuppression is stopped the hamster heart is rejected by a process that we term late xenograft rejection. We report here on some of the immunological features of late xenograft rejection.
METHODS - Lewis rats transplanted with hamster hearts were treated with leflunomide (5 mg/kg/day by gavage) for 14-21 days and CsA (20 mg/kg/day by gavage) continuously from the day of transplant. Serum was harvested and the functional activities of the xenoreactive antibodies were quantitated by in vivo passive transfer of sera, flow cytometry, in vitro C3 deposition assays, and Western blotting.
RESULTS - CsA alone prevented late xenograft rejection and the accompanying production of xenoreactive antibodies. The xenoreactive antibodies accompanying acute or late xenograft rejection were predominantly IgM, but only serum from rats undergoing acute xenograft rejection was able to induce hyperacute rejection. The ability of serum to induce hyperacute rejection correlated with its ability to induce C3 deposition on hamster lymphocytes in vitro. The repertoire of hamster antigens recognized by IgM in the serum of rats undergoing late xenograft rejection is more restricted than that of IgM in the serum of rats undergoing acute xenograft rejection. We additionally demonstrate that long-term graft survival is not dependent on graft accommodation.
CONCLUSIONS - These studies demonstrate that a brief treatment with the combination of leflunomide and CsA profoundly modifies the humoral xenoreactivity in the recipient, converting it from a T-independent into a T cell-dependent response. Differences in functional activity of sera from acute or late xenograft rejection suggest that antigenic specificity defines the ability of IgM to induce complement activation and hyperacute rejection.