IL-21 biased alemtuzumab induced chronic antibody-mediated rejection is reversed by LFA-1 costimulation blockade

Jean Kwun*, Jaeberm Park, John S. Yi, Alton B. Farris, Allan D. Kirk, Stuart J. Knechtle

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Despite its excellent efficacy in controlling T cell mediated acute rejection, lymphocyte depletion may promote a humoral response. While T cell repopulation after depletion has been evaluated in many aspects, the B cell response has not been fully elucidated. We tested the hypothesis that the mechanisms also involve skewed T helper phenotype after lymphocytic depletion. Post-transplant immune response was measured from alemtuzumab treated hCD52Tg cardiac allograft recipients with or without anti-LFA-1 mAb. Alemtuzumab induction promoted serum DSA, allo-B cells, and CAV in humanized CD52 transgenic (hCD52Tg) mice after heterotopic heart transplantation. Additional anti-LFA-1 mAb treatment resulted in reduced DSA (Fold increase 4.75 ± 6.9 vs. 0.7 ± 0.5; p < 0.01), allo-specific B cells (0.07 ± 0.06 vs. 0.006 ± 0.002 %; p < 0.01), neo-intimal hyperplasia (56 ± 14% vs. 23 ± 13%; p < 0.05), arterial disease (77.8 ± 14.2 vs. 25.8 ± 20.1%; p < 0.05), and fibrosis (15 ± 23.3 vs. 4.3 ± 1.65%; p < 0.05) in this alemtuzumab-induced chronic antibody-mediated rejection (CAMR) model. Surprisingly, elevated serum IL-21 levels in alemtuzumab-treated mice was reduced with LFA-1 blockade. In accordance with the increased serum IL-21 level, alemtuzumab treated mice showed hyperplastic germinal center (GC) development, while the supplemental anti-LFA-1 mAb significantly reduced the GC frequency and size. We report that the incomplete T cell depletion inside of the GC leads to a systemic IL-21 dominant milieu with hyperplastic GC formation and CAMR. Conventional immunosuppression, such as tacrolimus and rapamycin, failed to reverse AMR, while co-stimulation blockade with LFA-1 corrected the GC hyperplastic response. The identification of IL-21 driven chronic AMR elucidates a novel mechanism that suggests a therapeutic approach with cytolytic induction.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2323
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
Issue numberOCT
StatePublished - 15 Oct 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Antibody-mediated rejection
  • Follicular helper T cells
  • Germinal center
  • Heart transplantation
  • IL-21


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