Antibodies targeting human leukocyte antigen (HLA)/major histocompatibility complex (MHC) proteins limit successful transplantation and transfusion, and their presence in blood products can cause lethal transfusion-related acute lung injury (TRALI). It is unclear which cell types are bound by these anti-leukocyte antibodies to initiate an immunologic cascade resulting in lung injury. We therefore conditionally removed MHC class I (MHC I) from likely cellular targets in antibody-mediated lung injury. Only the removal of endothelial MHC I reduced lung injury and mortality, related mechanistically to absent endothelial complement fixation and lung platelet retention. Restoration of endothelial MHC I rendered MHC I–deficient mice susceptible to lung injury. Neutrophil responses, including neutrophil extracellular trap (NET) release, were intact in endothelial MHC I–deficient mice, whereas complement depletion reduced both lung injury and NETs. Human pulmonary endothelial cells showed high HLA class I expression, and posttransfusion complement activation was increased in clinical TRALI. These results indicate that the critical source of antigen for anti-leukocyte antibodies is in fact the endothelium, which reframes our understanding of TRALI as a rapid-onset vasculitis. Inhibition of complement activation may have multiple beneficial effects of reducing endothelial injury, platelet retention, and NET release in conditions where antibodies trigger these pathogenic responses.


Simon J. Cleary, Nicholas Kwaan, Jennifer J. Tian, Daniel R. Calabrese, Beñat Mallavia, Mélia Magnen, John R. Greenland, Anatoly Urisman, Jonathan P. Singer, Steven R. Hays, Jasleen Kukreja, Ariel M. Hay, Heather L. Howie, Pearl Toy, Clifford A. Lowell, Craig N. Morrell, James C. Zimring, Mark R. Looney


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