The role of donor-specific HLA antibodies (DSA) after pediatric liver transplantation (LTx) is not clearly established. We completed a cross-sectional study to characterize DSA in long-term survivors of pediatric LTx and assess the impact of C1q-binding DSA on allograft outcomes. Methods Serum samples were collected at routine clinic visits from 50 pediatric LTx recipients classified into 3 clinical phenotypes: nontolerant (n = 18) with de novo autoimmune hepatitis (DAIH) and/or late acute cellular rejection (ACR); stable (n = 25) on maintenance tacrolimus; operationally tolerant (n = 7). Samples were blinded, and antibody detection was performed using Luminex single antigen class I and II beads. Patients with positive DSA were tested for C1q-binding DSA. Results DSA were detected in 54% (n = 27) of the patients, with the majority directed at HLA class II antigens (DR, 41%; DQ, 53%). Patients with DSA were younger at the time of LTx (P = 0.016) and time of study (P = 0.024). Mean aspartate aminotransferase, alanine aminotransferase, total bilirubin, and gamma glutamyl transferase were higher in DSA-positive patients, though did not reach statistical significance. Nontolerant patients were significantly more likely to have DQ DSA (61%) compared to stable (20%) and tolerant (29%) patients (P = 0.021). The nontolerant phenotype was associated with DSA and C1q-binding DSA, with odds ratios of 13 (P = 0.015) and 8.6 (P = 0.006), respectively. The presence of DQ DSA was associated with DAIH and late ACR, with odds ratios of 12.5 (P = 0.004) and 10.8 (P = 0.006), respectively. Conclusions Allograft dysfunction is not always evident in patients with DSA, but DQ DSA are strongly associated with DAIH, late ACR, and chronic rejection.
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