KIR and HLA-C Interactions Promote Differential Dendritic Cell Maturation and Is a Major Determinant of Graft Failure following Kidney Transplantation

R Hanvesakul, Chandrashekhar Kubal, Jason Moore, Desley Neil, Mark Cook, Simon Ball, D Briggs, Paul Moss, Paul Cockwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Citations (Scopus)


Background: HLA-C is an important ligand for killer immunoglobulin like receptors (KIR) that regulate natural killer (NK) cell function. Based on KIR specificity HLA-C molecules are allocated into two groups, HLA-C1 or HLA-C2; HLA-C2 is more inhibiting to NK cell function than HLA-C1. We studied the clinical importance of HLA-C genotypes on the long-term graft survival of 760 kidney transplants performed at our centre utilising a population based genetic study and cell culture model to define putative mechanisms. Methods and Findings: Genotyping was performed using conventional DNA PCR techniques and correlations made to clinical outcomes. We found that transplant recipients with HLA-C2 had significantly better long-term graft survival than transplant recipients with HLA-C1 (66% versus 44% at 10 years, log-rank p = 0.002, HR = 1.51, 95% CI = 1.16-1.97). In in-vitro NK and dendritic cell (DC) co-culture model we made several key observations that correlated with the population based genetic study. We observed that donor derived NK cells, on activation with IL-15, promoted differential HLA-C genotype dependent DC maturation. In NK-DC co-culture, the possession of HLA-C2 by DC was associated with anti-inflammatory cytokine production (IL-1RA/IL-6), diminished DC maturation (CD86, HLA-DR), and absent CCR7 expression. Conversely, possession of HLA-C1 by DC was associated with pro-inflammatory cytokine synthesis (TNF-alpha, IL-12p40/p70), enhanced DC maturation and up-regulation of CCR7 expression. By immunohistochemistry the presence of donor NK cells was confirmed in pre-transplant kidneys. Conclusions: We propose that after kidney transplantation IL-15 activated donor derived NK cells interact with recipient DC with less activation of indirect allo-reactivity in HLA-C2 positive recipients than HLA-C1 positive recipients; this has implications for long-term graft survival. Early events following kidney transplantation involving NK-DC interaction via KIR and HLA-C immune synapse may have a central role in long-term kidney transplant outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e23631
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2011


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