BACKGROUND Rejection is the primary barrier to broader implementation of vascularized composite allografts (VCAs), including face and limb transplants. The immunologic pathways activated in face transplant rejection have not been fully characterized.METHODS Using skin biopsies prospectively collected over 9 years from 7 face transplant patients, we studied rejection by gene expression profiling, histology, immunostaining, and T cell receptor sequencing.RESULTS Grade 1 rejection did not differ significantly from nonrejection, suggesting that it does not represent a pathologic state. In grade 2, there was a balanced upregulation of both proinflammatory T cell activation pathways and antiinflammatory checkpoint and immunomodulatory pathways, with a net result of no tissue injury. In grade 3, IFN-γ–driven inflammation, antigen-presenting cell activation, and infiltration of the skin by proliferative T cells bearing markers of antigen-specific activation and cytotoxicity tipped the balance toward tissue injury. Rejection of VCAs and solid organ transplants had both distinct and common features. VCA rejection was uniquely associated with upregulation of immunoregulatory genes, including SOCS1; induction of lipid antigen–presenting CD1 proteins; and infiltration by T cells predicted to recognize CD1b and CD1c.CONCLUSION Our findings suggest that the distinct features of VCA rejection reflect the unique immunobiology of skin and that enhancing cutaneous immunoregulatory networks may be a useful strategy in combatting rejection.Trial registration ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01281267.FUNDING Assistant Secretary of Defense and Health Affairs, through Reconstructive Transplant Research (W81XWH-17-1-0278, W81XWH-16-1-0647, W81XWH-16-1-0689, W81XWH-18-1-0784, W81XWH-1-810798); American Society of Transplantation’s Transplantation and Immunology Research Network Fellowship Research Grant; Plastic Surgery Foundation Fellowship from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons; Novo Nordisk Foundation (NNF15OC0014092); Lundbeck Foundation; Aage Bangs Foundation; A.P. Moller Foundation for the Advancement of Medical Science; NIH UL1 RR025758.
Thet Su Win, William J. Crisler, Beatrice Dyring-Andersen, Rachel Lopdrup, Jessica E. Teague, Qian Zhan, Victor Barrera, Shannan Ho Sui, Sotirios Tasigiorgos, Naoka Murakami, Anil Chandraker, Stefan G. Tullius, Bohdan Pomahac, Leonardo V. Riella, Rachael A. Clark