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J Immunol. 2004 May 15;172(10):6460-7.

Lack of galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose expression on porcine endothelial cells prevents complement-induced lysis but not direct xenogeneic NK cytotoxicity.

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, Laboratory for Transplantation Immunology, University Hospital, Zurich, Switzerland.


The galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose (alphaGal) carbohydrate epitope is expressed on porcine, but not human cells, and therefore represents a major target for preformed human anti-pig natural Abs (NAb). Based on results from pig-to-primate animal models, NAb binding to porcine endothelial cells will likely induce complement activation, lysis, and hyperacute rejection in pig-to-human xenotransplantation. Human NK cells may also contribute to innate immune responses against xenografts, either by direct recognition of activating molecules on target cells or by FcgammaRIII-mediated xenogeneic Ab-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC). The present study addressed the question as to whether the lack of alphaGal protects porcine endothelial cells from NAb/complement-induced lysis, direct xenogeneic NK lysis, NAb-dependent ADCC, and adhesion of human NK cells under shear stress. Homologous recombination, panning, and limiting dilution cloning were used to generate an alphaGal-negative porcine endothelial cell line, PED2*3.51. NAb/complement-induced xenogeneic lysis of PED2*3.51 was reduced by an average of 86% compared with the alphaGal-positive phenotype. PED2*3.51 resisted NK cell-mediated ADCC with a reduction of lysis ranging from 30 to 70%. However, direct xenogeneic lysis of PED2*3.51, mediated either by freshly isolated or IL-2-activated human NK cells or the NK cell line NK92, was not reduced. Furthermore, adhesion of IL-2-activated human NK cells did not rely on alphaGal expression. In conclusion, removal of alphaGal leads to a clear reduction in complement-induced lysis and ADCC, but does not resolve adhesion of NK cells and direct anti-porcine NK cytotoxicity, indicating that alphaGal is not a dominant target for direct human NK cytotoxicity against porcine cells.

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