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Transplantation. 2013 Jan 15;95(1):128-36. doi: 10.1097/TP.0b013e3182777f28.

Antibody-mediated allograft rejection: morphologic spectrum and serologic correlations in surveillance and for cause biopsies.

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Department of Pathology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA.



Subclinical antibody-mediated allograft rejection (AMR) has been characterized in serial biopsies from presensitized recipients but has not been systematically studied in conventional renal transplants.


We evaluated 1101 consecutive kidney transplant biopsies (400 surveillance biopsies [SBx] and 701 for cause biopsies [FCBx]) with concurrent donor-specific antibody (DSA) studies, C4d staining, and ultrastructural examination.


A comparison of AMR-related features (DSA and DSA class, C4d staining, and microvascular injury) demonstrated that these were qualitatively and quantitatively associated with each other and with graft dysfunction. A major difference between SBx and FCBx was that the complete AMR phenotype was more common in FCBx. Among SBx, 8.5% showed complete or incomplete AMR with predominance of an incomplete phenotype (according to the Banff schema, these were acute AMR [23.5%], chronic active AMR [14.7%], suspicious for acute AMR [41.1%], suspicious for chronic active AMR [2.9%], and only microvascular injury insufficient to consider AMR [17.5%]). Persistence or worsening of AMR in a subsequent biopsy occurred in 38.2% of cases independently of the strength of AMR findings in the first biopsy (e.g., progression to chronic AMR occurred also in cases with suspicious or nondiagnostic findings). Temporal progression from subclinical to clinically evident AMR is consistent with the fact that, overall, the biopsies with incomplete phenotype (DSA┬▒C4d) occurred between 14.52 and 20.86 months, whereas the complete phenotype occurred much later (36.71 months).


An accurate diagnostic interpretation of the potentially important but incomplete, subclinical, AMR phenotype represents a serious challenge that may impact clinical management.

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