Engraftment by recipient's (R) cells has been already demonstrated in gender mismatched liver grafts using fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH), with contrasting results concerning epithelial cells. Mismatch for human leukocyte antigen (HLA) class I (HLA-I) is quite common in patients with orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT). We thus aimed to assess whether monoclonal antibodies (MoAbs), currently employed in the HLA typing process, could be used to study the dynamics of R cells in liver grafts. A total of 50 frozen liver biopsies from 37 patients receiving a HLA mismatch liver were tested. Biopsies were obtained from 3 days to more than 360 days after OLT. Frozen sections of graft biopsies were stained using an immunoperoxidase technique with the proper MoAbs. In selected cases, a double immunofluorescence was also performed. Circulating R blood cells and sinusoidal cells were occasionally observed in liver biopsies obtained within 10 days after OLT and were commonly detected after 1 month. The number of sinusoidal cells continued to increase up to 6 months, as shown on serial biopsies. On the whole, R blood cells and R sinusoidal cells were detected in 86% and 82% of the biopsies, respectively. R hepatocytes and biliary cells were detected after 40 and 60 days after OLT, respectively, in 14% (hepatocytes), 8% (bile ducts), and 12% (proliferating bile ducts) of the biopsies. R hepatocytes presented as single cells or groups of few cells; their number was lower than 1% and apparently did not increase with time after OLT. In conclusion, it is possible to detect R cells in liver graft using MoAbs to specific mismatched HLA-I alleles. R sinusoidal cells start to appear after 10 days and are commonly observed after 1 month; bile duct cells and hepatocytes appear later and their number does not increase with time. Engraftment by R epithelial cells seems to be less important than previously reported.
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