OBJECTIVE - To investigate if recurrent autoimmunity explained hyperglycemia and C-peptide loss in three immunosuppressed simultaneous pancreas-kidney (SPK) transplant recipients. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS - We monitored auto-antibodies and autoreactive T-cells (using tetramers) and performed biopsy. The function of autoreactive T-cells was studied with in vitro and in vivo assays. RESULTS - Autoantibodies were present pretransplant and persisted on follow-up in one patient. They appeared years after transplantation but before the development of hyperglycemia in the remaining patients. Pancreas transplant biopsies were taken within ∼1 year from hyperglycemia recurrence and revealed β-cell loss and insulitis. We studied autoreactive T-cells from the time of biopsy and repeatedly demonstrated their presence on further follow-up, together with autoantibodies. Treatment with T-cell-directed therapies (thymoglobulin and daclizumab, all patients), alone or with the addition of B-cell-directed therapy (rituximab, two patients), nonspecifically depleted T-cells and was associated with C-peptide secretion for >1 year. Autoreactive T-cells with the same autoantigen specificity and conserved T-cell receptor later reappeared with further C-peptide loss over the next 2 years. Purified autoreactive CD4 T-cells from two patients were cotransplanted with HLA-mismatched human islets into immunodeficient mice. Grafts showed β-cell loss in mice receiving autoreactive T-cells but not control T-cells. CONCLUSIONS - We demonstrate the cardinal features of recurrent autoimmunity in three such patients, including the reappearance of CD4 T-cells capable of mediating β-cell destruction. Markers of autoimmunity can help diagnose this underappreciated cause of graft loss. Immune monitoring during therapy showed that autoimmunity was not resolved by the immunosuppressive agents used.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Internal Medicine
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism