Background. Unlike in kidney and heart transplantation, the role of pretransplant donor-specific blood transfusion (DST) has not been studied prospectively in a large animal model of bowel transplantation. We investigated the impact of portal versus systemic DST on overall survival, rejection, graft-versus-host disease (GVH), and infection after total (small and large) bowel transplantation in pigs. Methods. Mixed lymphocyte culture- reactive, outbred pigs underwent total enterectomy and orthotopic total bowel transplantation with portal vein graft drainage. One unit of donor blood was transfused via the portal or systemic circulation (according to a randomization protocol) before graft implantation was begun. We studied six groups, all of which underwent at least a total bowel transplant: group 1 (n=5) comprised nonimmunosuppressed control pigs with portal DST; group 2 (n=6), nonimmunosuppressed control pigs with systemic DST; group 3 (n=5), cyclosporine (CsA)-treated pigs with portal DST; group 4 (n=5), CsA-treated pigs with systemic DST; group 5 (n=5), tacrolimus-treated pigs with portal DST; and group 6 (n=5), tacrolimus-treated pigs with systemic DST. All immunosuppressed pigs received prednisone (2 mg/kg/day) and either CsA (to maintain levels between 250 and 350 ng/ml) or tacrolimus (to maintain levels between 10 and 30 ng/ml). Stomal biopsies and autopsies were obtained to study the incidence of rejection, GVHD, and infection. Results. Portal DST and tacrolimus-based immunosuppression resulted in the highest survival rates. At 7, 14, and 28 days after transplantation, survival rates in group 5 were 100%, 100%, and 80%; in group 6, 100%, 60%, and 40%; and in group 3, 100%, 0%, and 0%, respectively. Only the combination of portal DST and tacrolimus prevented the occurrence of, and death from, rejection. Death from rejection at 7, 14, and 28 days in group 5 was 0%, 0%, and 0%; in group 6, 0%, 33%, and 67%; and in group 3, 0%, 100%, and 100%, respectively. Of note, if immunosuppression was used, the groups with portal (versus systemic) DST had a higher risk of death from infection but a lower risk of death from GVHD. Simultaneous immunologic events were noted more frequently in groups with systemic (versus portal) DST. Long-term survival was noted only in groups with tacrolimus-based immunosuppression and was more common for those with portal (versus systemic) DST. Conclusions. Portal DST at the time of total bowel transplantation and posttransplant immunosuppression with tacrolimus prevent rejection and significantly increase graft survival. The combination of portal antigen presentation and tacrolimus needs to be studied in clinical bowel transplantation.
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