Microchimerism after liver transplantation: prevalence and methodological aspects of detection.Transplantation. 1998 Jul 15; 66(1):77-83.T
Microchimerism after liver transplantation is a readily observed phenomenon. The immunological implications, however, remain unclear. Moreover, methodological approaches and their detection limits in the study of allogeneic microchimerism have not been studied in detail.
Therefore, the aim of this study was to evaluate the single-step and nested formats of the polymerase chain reaction/sequence-specific priming (PCR-SSP) approach under standardized conditions. For that purpose, a panel of recombinant plasmid clones was generated by PCR cloning. The panel contained the allelic sequences of the second exon of DRB1 covering all DR specificities on a low-resolution level. Using this panel, limiting dilution assays for various DR sequences in the presence and absence of competitor DNA were carried out to determine the minimal number of copies required for detection by single-step and nested PCR-SSP. Subsequently, 22 liver transplant recipients were analyzed in a retrospective study for the presence of allogeneic microchimerism by nested PCR-SSP.
Although at least 10 copies of template DNA could be detected by nested PCR-SSP overall, single-step PCR-SSP was on average 10(2) to 10(3) times less sensitive. Upon the addition of human competitor DNA, the detection limits decreased on average by a factor of 10. In addition, sequence-specific differences in amplification efficiency could be appreciated. Using nested PCR-SSP, peripheral blood allogeneic microchimerism could be observed in 17 of 22 HLA-DR-mismatched liver recipients. Recombinants representing recipient DRB1 specificities were used to exclude false-positive results by lack of cross-reactivities of the donor-specific primers and to evaluate negative results due to sample-related reduced amplification efficiencies in microchimerism-negative recipients. In donor/recipient combinations that differed by at least one DR specificity, allogeneic microchimerism was seen in 87.5% of the cases. In five chimerism-negative cases, sample-related problems were detected in two cases.
The optimization and standardization of the detection of genomic HLA sequences at low copy number may be greatly facilitated using a clonal reference system. Furthermore, a clonal reference system may be used to conduct cross-priming experiments to exclude false-positive results and may allow the determination of sample-specific detection limits for donor-derived HLA-DR specificities in chimerism-negative patients. Our evaluation of the PCR-SSP approach for the study of allogeneic microchimerism indicated that nested PCR-SSP provides the most sensitive format when HLA sequences are targeted. Yet, the detection sensitivity may vary between individual alleles and specificities. Allogeneic microchimerism in liver recipients can be observed in the majority of patients. However, the detection may be subject to the degree of mismatching, the HLA-DR alleles involved, and sample-related impaired PCR amplification efficiency.