Non-invasive alloimmune risk stratification of long-term liver transplant recipients

Julien Vionnet, Rosa Miquel, Juan G. Abraldes, Jurate Wall, Elisavet Kodela, Juan Jose Lozano, Pablo Ruiz, Miguel Navasa, Aileen Marshall, Frederik Nevens, Will Gelson, Joanna Leithead, Steven Masson, Elmar Jaeckel, Richard Taubert, Phaedra Tachtatzis, Dennis Eurich, Kenneth J. Simpson, Eliano Bonaccorsi-Riani, Sandy FengJohn Bucuvalas, James Ferguson, Alberto Quaglia, Julia Sidorova, Maria Elstad, Abdel Douiri, Alberto Sánchez-Fueyo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Background & Aims: Management of long-term immunosuppression following liver transplantation (LT) remains empirical. Surveillance liver biopsies in combination with transcriptional profiling could overcome this challenge by identifying recipients with active alloimmune-mediated liver damage despite normal liver tests, but this approach lacks applicability. Our aim was to investigate the utility of non-invasive tools for the stratification of stable long-term survivors of LT, according to their immunological risk and need for immunosuppression. Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional multicentre study of 190 adult LT recipients assessed to determine their eligibility to participate in an immunosuppression withdrawal trial. Patients had stable liver allograft function and had been transplanted for non-autoimmune non-replicative viral liver disease >3 years before inclusion. We performed histological, immunogenetic and serological studies and measured the intrahepatic transcript levels of an 11-gene classifier highly specific for T cell-mediated rejection (TCMR). Results: In this cohort, 35.8% of patients harboured clinically silent fibro-inflammatory liver lesions (13.7% had mild damage and 22.1% had moderate-to-severe damage). The severity of liver allograft damage was positively associated with TCMR-related transcripts, class II donor-specific antibodies (DSAs), ALT, AST, and liver stiffness measurement (LSM), and negatively correlated with serum creatinine and tacrolimus trough levels. Liver biopsies were stratified according to their TCMR transcript levels using a cut-off derived from biopsies with clinically significant TCMR. Two multivariable prediction models, integrating ALT+LSM or ALT+class II DSAs, had a high discriminative capacity for classifying patients with or without alloimmune damage. The latter model performed well in an independent cohort of 156 liver biopsies obtained from paediatric liver recipients with similar inclusion/exclusion criteria. Conclusion: ALT, class II DSAs and LSM are valuable tools to non-invasively identify stable LT recipients without significant underlying alloimmunity who could benefit from minimisation of immunosuppression. Lay summary: A large proportion of liver transplant patients with normal liver tests have inflammatory liver lesions, which in 17% of cases are molecularly indistinguishable from those seen at the time of rejection. ALT, class II donor-specific antibodies and liver stiffness are useful in identifying patients with this form of subclinical rejection. We propose these markers as a useful tool to help clinicians determine if the immunosuppression administered is adequate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1409-1419
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Hepatology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • DSA
  • FibroScan
  • HLA epitope mismatch
  • LT
  • PIRCHE-II score
  • T cell-mediated rejection
  • biomarkers
  • fibrosis
  • gene-expression profiling
  • immunosuppression minimisation
  • non-invasive
  • tolerance


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