The purpose of the present experiments was to evaluate the role of circulating antibodies in the rejection of human renal allografts and to study the apparent target(s) for antibody binding. Eluates obtained from surgical biopsy and nephrectomy specimens of rejecting, cadaveric human renal allografts were tested for antibodies directed to structural antigens of normal kidney and for cytotoxic antibody activity against mononuclear cell populations. By indirect immunofluorescence 23 of 35 eluates contained immunoglobulin that bound to normal kidney. Staining was in smooth muscle only in 10 patients, in smooth muscle and other structures such as tubular basement membranes, proximal cells, or brush border in 9 patients, and in structures other than smooth muscle in 4 patients. All 16 eluates tested contained antibodies cytotoxic for cells derived from a panel of normal voluneteers. Six were cytotoxic to T cells and 10 to B cell and monocyte-enriched preparations. Absorption of eluates with pooled buffy coat cells, platelet concentrates and packed, cultured B cells removed antibodies reactive with vascular wall smooth muscle and endothelium, but not antibodies to tubular basement membranes, proximal or distal tubular cells, brush border, or other structures of kidney sections. Two of five eluates containing antikidney antibodies were found to bind to rat kidneys in vivo. These results suggest that circulating antibodies participate in cadaveric renal allograft destruction and demonstrate that they can be recovered directly from the allograft. Moreover, the data indicate that there are different antibody populations involved: some clearly directed to allo-specific differences and others that are apparently kidney-specific.
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