Primary vascularization of the graft determines the immunodominance of murine minor H antigens during organ transplantation.



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Grafts can be rejected even when matched for MHC because of differences in the minor histocompatibility Ags (mH-Ags). H4- and H60-derived epitopes are known as immunodominant mH-Ags in H2(b)-compatible BALB.B to C57BL/6 transplantation settings. Although multiple explanations have been provided to explain immunodominance of Ags, the role of vascularization of the graft is yet to be determined. In this study, we used heart (vascularized) and skin (nonvascularized) transplantations to determine the role of primary vascularization of the graft. A higher IFN-γ response toward H60 peptide occurs in heart recipients. In contrast, a higher IFN-γ response was generated against H4 peptide in skin transplant recipients. Peptide-loaded tetramer staining revealed a distinct antigenic hierarchy between heart and skin transplantation: H60-specific CD8(+) T cells were the most abundant after heart transplantation, whereas H4-specific CD8(+) T cells were more abundant after skin graft. Neither the tissue-specific distribution of mH-Ags nor the draining lymph node-derived dendritic cells correlated with the observed immunodominance. Interestingly, non-primarily vascularized cardiac allografts mimicked skin grafts in the observed immunodominance, and H60 immunodominance was observed in primarily vascularized skin grafts. However, T cell depletion from the BALB.B donor prior to cardiac allograft induces H4 immunodominance in vascularized cardiac allograft. Collectively, our data suggest that immediate transmigration of donor T cells via primary vascularization is responsible for the immunodominance of H60 mH-Ag in organ and tissue transplantation.


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Kwun, Jean, Subramaniam Malarkannan, William J Burlingham and Stuart J Knechtle (2011). Primary vascularization of the graft determines the immunodominance of murine minor H antigens during organ transplantation. J Immunol, 187(8). pp. 3997–4006. 10.4049/jimmunol.1003918 Retrieved from

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Jean Kwun

Associate Professor in Surgery

Research interests include humoral tolerance to organ transplants in animal model and humans, developing a clinically relevant animal model to study the mechanisms of antibody-mediated rejection (AMR), and establishing a conceptual basis that will translate into therapeutic intervention of AMR.


Stuart Johnston Knechtle

William R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor

During my career as an academic surgeon, I have had the privilege of leading and/or participating in a diverse portfolio of hypothesis-driven research projects.  These projects have centered on the immunology of surgery and transplantation, including both cellular and antibody-mediated immune responses.  During my training I studied the response of hyper-sensitized recipients to allogeneic liver transplantation, and am currently studying means of reducing immunologic memory that might allow more successful transplantation in sensitized recipients.  This immune response involves pathways of coagulation, antibody-mediated rejection, and cellular rejection and current work in my lab involves these three pathways.  The other major focuses of my work have been co-stimulation blockade and immune cell depletion as approaches to immunologic unresponsiveness or tolerance.  My research group has been involved in translational and clinical research to develop these mechanistic tools for the benefit of human organ transplant recipients.

Recent Publications

Knechtle SJ, Shaw JM, Hering BJ, Kraemer K, Madsen JC. Translational impact of NIH-funded nonhuman primate research in transplantation. Sci Transl Med. 2019 Jul 10;11(500). pii: eaau0143. Reprint | Full Text

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