In a previous study, we found that 92% of patients with chronic rejection had donor-specific human leukocyte antigen antibodies (DSAs), but surprisingly, 61% of comparator patients without rejection also had DSAs. We hypothesized that immunoglobulin G (IgG) subclasses were differentially distributed between the 2 groups. A modified single-antigen bead assay was used to detect the presence of individual IgG subclasses against human leukocyte antigen in 39 chronic rejection patients and 66 comparator patients. DSAs of the IgG1 subclass were most common and were found in 45% of all patients; they were followed by IgG3 DSAs (21%), IgG4 DSAs (14%), and IgG2 DSAs (13%). The percentage of patients with multiple IgG subclasses was significantly higher in the chronic rejection group versus the comparator group (50% versus 14%, P < 0.001). Patients with normal graft function in the presence of DSAs mostly had isolated IgG1, whereas patients with chronic rejection had a combination of IgG subclasses. Patients who developed DSAs of the IgG3 subclass showed an increased risk of graft loss (hazard ratio = 3.35, 95% confidence interval = 1.39-8.05) in comparison with patients with DSAs of other IgG subclasses or without DSAs. Although further study is needed, the determination of the IgG subclass in DSA-positive patients may help us to identify patients with a higher risk of chronic rejection and graft loss.
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