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Xenotransplantation. 2010 Jul-Aug;17(4):300-12. doi: 10.1111/j.1399-3089.2010.00600.x.

Occurrence of specific humoral non-responsiveness to swine antigens following administration of GalT-KO bone marrow to baboons.

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  • 1Transplantation Biology Research Center, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02129, USA.



Hematopoietic chimerism induces transplantation tolerance across allogeneic and xenogeneic barriers, but has been difficult to achieve in the pig-to-primate model. We have now utilized swine with knockout of the gene coding for alpha-1,3-galactosyltransferase (GalT-KO pigs) as bone marrow donors in an attempt to achieve chimerism and tolerance by avoiding the effects of natural antibodies to Gal determinants on pig hematopoietic cells.


Baboons (n = 4; Baboons 1 to 4 = B156, B158, B167, and B175, respectively) were splenectomized and conditioned with TBI (150 cGy), thymic irradiation (700 cGy), T cell depletion with rabbit anti-thymocyte globulin (rATG) and rat anti-primate CD2 (LoCD2b), and received FK506 and supportive therapy for 28 days. All animals received GalT-KO bone marrow (1 to 2 x 10(9) cells/kg) in two fractions on days 0 and 2, and were thereafter monitored for the presence of pig cells by flow cytometry, for porcine progenitor cells by PCR of BM colony-forming units, and for cellular reactivity to pig cells by mixed lymphocyte reaction (MLR). In vitro antibody formation to LoCD2b and rATG was tested by ELISA; antibody reactivity to GalT-KO pig cells was tested by flow cytometry and cytotoxicity assays. Additionally, Baboons 3 and 4 received orthotopic kidney transplants on days 17 and 2, respectively, to test the potential impact of the protocol on renal transplantation.


None of the animals showed detectable pig cells by flow cytometry for more than 12 h post-BM infusion. However, porcine progenitor cell engraftment, as evidenced by pig-derived colony forming units in the BM, as well as peripheral microchimerism in the thymus, lymph node, and peripheral blood was detected by PCR in baboons 1 and 2 for at least 28 days post-transplant. ELISA results confirmed humoral immunocompetence at time of transplantation as antibody titers to rat (LoCD2b) and rabbit (ATG) increased within 2 weeks. However, no induced antibodies to GalT-KO pig cells or increased donor specific cytotoxicity was detectable by flow cytometry. In contrast, baboons 3 and 4 developed serum antibodies to pig cells as well as to rat and rabbit immunoglobulin by day 14. Retrospective analysis revealed that although all four baboons possessed low levels of antibody-mediated cytotoxicity to GalT-KO cells prior to transplantation, the two baboons (3 and 4) that became sensitized to pig cells (and rejected pig kidneys) had relatively high pre-transplantation titers of anti-non-Gal IgG detectable by flow cytometry, whereas baboons 1 and 2 had undetectable titers.


Engraftment and specific non-responsiveness to pig cells has been achieved in two of four baboons following GalT-KO pig-to-baboon BMT. Engraftment correlated with absence of preformed anti-non-Gal IgG serum antibodies. These results are encouraging with regard to the possibility of achieving transplantation tolerance across this xenogeneic barrier.

(c) 2010 John Wiley & Sons A/S.

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