Urinary Cell mRNA Profiles Predictive of Human Kidney Allograft Status.
Immune monitoring of kidney allograft recipients and personalized therapeutics may help reach the aspirational goal of “one transplant for life.” The invasive kidney biopsy procedure, the diagnostic tool of choice, has become safer and the biopsy classification more refined. Nevertheless, biopsy-associated complications, interobserver variability in biopsy specimen scoring, and costs continue to be significant concerns. The dynamics of the immune repertoire make frequent assessments of allograft status necessary, but repeat biopsies of the kidney are neither practical nor safe. To address the existing challenges, we developed urinary cell mRNA profiling and investigated the diagnostic, prognostic, and predictive accuracy of absolute levels of a hypothesis-based panel of mRNAs encoding immunoregulatory proteins. Enabled by our refinements of the PCR assay and by investigating mechanistic hypotheses, our single-center studies identified urinary cell mRNAs associated with T cell-mediated rejection, antibody-mediated rejection, interstitial fibrosis and tubular atrophy, and BK virus nephropathy. In the multicenter National Institutes of Health Clinical Trials in Organ Transplantation-04, we discovered and validated a urinary cell three-gene signature of T-cell CD3 ε chain mRNA, interferon gamma inducible protein 10 (IP-10) mRNA, and 18s ribosomal RNA that is diagnostic of subclinical acute cellular rejection and acute cellular rejection and prognostic of acute cellular rejection and graft function. The trajectory of the signature score remained flat and below the diagnostic threshold for acute cellular rejection in the patients with no rejection biopsy specimens, whereas a sharp rise was observed during the weeks before the biopsy specimen that showed acute cellular rejection. Our RNA sequencing and bioinformatics identified kidney allograft biopsy specimen gene signatures of acute rejection to be enriched in urinary cells matched to acute rejection biopsy specimens. The urinary cellular landscape was more diverse and more enriched for immune cell types compared with kidney allograft biopsy specimens. Urinary cell mRNA profile-guided clinical trials are needed to evaluate their value compared with current standard of care.
Authors: Michelle L Lubetzky, Thalia Salinas, Joseph E Schwartz, Manikkam Suthanthiran