In allo-stem cell transplantation (SCT), it is unclear whether donor-specific anti-HLA Abs (DSAs) can actually mediate graft rejection or if they are simply surrogate markers for the cellular immunity that causes graft rejection. Here, we first analyzed a case of cord blood allograft rejection in which DSA and cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) specific for donor HLA-B∗54:01 were detected at the time of graft rejection. Both the DSA and CTL inhibited colony formation by unrelated bone marrow mononuclear cells sharing HLA-B∗54:01, suggesting that the humoral and cellular immune responses were involved in the graft rejection. Interestingly, the DSA and CTL were also detected in cryopreserved pre-transplant patient blood, raising a hypothesis that the presence of anti-HLA Abs could be an indicator for corresponding HLA-specific T cells. We then evaluated the existence of HLA-specific CD8 + T cells in other patient blood specimens having anti-HLA class I Abs. Interferon-γ enzyme-linked immunospot assays clearly confirmed the existence of corresponding HLA-specific T-cell precursors in three of seven patients with anti-HLA Abs. In conclusion, our data demonstrate that integrated humoral and cellular immunity recognizing the same alloantigen of the donor can mediate graft rejection in DSA-positive patients undergoing HLA-mismatched allo-SCT. Further studies generalizing our observation are warranted.
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