Background. Human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-G displays immunotolerogenic properties toward the main effector cells involved in graft rejection through inhibition of natural killer cell- and cytotoxic T-lymphocyte-mediated cytolysis, and CD4 T-cell alloproliferation. An increase in serum and graft levels of HLA-G has been noted in transplant patients with improved allograft survival. However, the clinical relevance of soluble serum HLA-G molecules in tolerant pediatric and young adult liver transplant patients remains to be studied. Methods. We examined the serum HLA-G levels in 42 pediatric and young adult liver transplant patients with a mean age of 15 years; 13 patients had operational tolerance (TOL), with complete immunosuppression withdrawal for 2.3 to 13.2 years. Results. Median HLA-G level in patients with acute rejection (AR) was similar to the level in pediatric healthy volunteers (9.9 vs. 4.2 U/mL, P=0.13). HLA-G was higher in patients with stable liver function on immunosuppression (54.6 U/mL) than in patients with AR (P=0.01) and healthy volunteers (P=0.003), but almost 6-fold lower than in TOL patients (325.4 U/mL). HLA-G did not correlate with clinical confounders or a history of posttransplant lymphoproliferative disease or Epstein-Barr virus; although levels in the TOL group were negatively correlated with time after immunosuppression withdrawal (r=-0.75, P=0.003). In rejectors, HLA-G levels trended to negatively correlate with a higher number (r=-0.58) and greater severity of AR episodes (r=-0.56) after 1 year posttransplantation. Conclusions. Increased serum HLA-G levels track with operational tolerance of liver grafts and support favorable outcomes in pediatric and young adult recipients.
- Pediatric liver transplantation