Modulation of humoral islet autoimmunity by pancreas allotransplantation influences allograft outcome in patients with type 1 diabetes.
Pancreas transplantation in patients with type 1 diabetes presents allogeneic beta-cell autoantigens to the immune system long after the initial beta-cell destruction that leads to diabetes has occurred. The aims of this study were to determine whether re-exposure to beta-cell autoantigen through transplantation affect the humoral autoimmune response and whether its modulation correlates with graft outcome. Antibodies to the major autoantigens GAD (GADA) and protein tyrosine phosphatase IA-2 (IA-2A) were measured before and after transplantation in patients with type 1 diabetes who received pancreas and kidney allografts. In the 110 cases studied, pancreas graft survival was not significantly associated with the presence of GADA or IA-2A before transplantation. In the 75 patients with sequential follow-up samples up to 11.2 years after transplantation, autoantibodies were persistently undetectable in 44 cases (59%) and remained at stable detectable levels in 13 cases (17%). Substantial changes in antibody levels were found in 18 cases (24%), of which 13 cases (17%) had declining levels and 5 cases (7%) had marked increments after transplantation. Rising GADA and IA-2A levels in these five patients were predominantly of the IgG1 subclass, with progressive spreading of epitope reactivity. Pancreas graft function was lost 0.7-2.3 years after rising autoantibody levels in four of these five patients, and a significantly lower pancreas graft survival was found in patients with major rises in either GADA or IA-2A levels (P < 0.0001 vs. the remainder) and in patients having persistently high levels of IA-2A (P = 0.002 vs. stable antibody-negative patients). Kidney graft survival was not associated with islet autoantibody status. In conclusion, a minority of patients receiving pancreas allografts under generalized immunosuppression show a stimulation of islet autoantibody reactivity characteristic of that found in preclinical type 1 diabetes, which is almost invariably followed by graft function failure and resumption of insulin therapy.