Bidirectional graft-host hematological traffic in liver transplantation

Hemant Sharma, Mauro E. Tun-Abraham, Vivian McAlister


The highly complex immuno-hematological system of the recipient has to rebalance itself when the liver is replaced with a graft that has its own system. This gives us an opportunity for observation. Here we consider the graft-to-recipient direction with passenger lymphocyte syndrome (PLS) as well as the recipient-to-graft direction with Factor VIII (FVIII) inhibitors, paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH) and graft endothelial replacement with liver transplantation. PLS extends beyond the ABO blood groups to any situation where the donor has been sensitized to a recipient antigen. PLS directed against ABO or minor blood group antigens is usually self limiting whereas Rhesus (Rh) PLS persists with life threatening immune hemolysis. Human platelet antigen (HPA) 1A PLS results in life threatening immune thrombocytopenia. Treatments of severe PLS may include reduction in immunosuppression, anti-B-cell therapy, plasmapheresis and splenectomy. Liver transplantation into recipients with FVIII inhibitors has been difficult. Donors with acquired hemophilia may transmit the capacity to make FVIII inhibitors by PLS and should be avoided. Patients with PNH have been transplanted successfully but a considerable cost in the continued use of high dose eculizumab. We speculate that combined bone marrow and liver transplantation would be a better option for recipients with FVIII inhibitors or PNH. Replacement of liver graft endothelium with recipient cells is common and may explain relative transplant tolerance that is believed to occur with liver transplantation.