Major histocompatibility complex and hematopoietic stem cell transplantation: Beyond the classical HLA polymorphism

Alice Bertaina, Marco Andreani

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) represents a curative treatment for many patients with hematological malignant or non-malignant disorders. Evaluation of potential donors for HSCT includes a rigorous assessment of the human leukocyte antigens (HLA) match status of family members, and the identification of suitable unrelated donors. Genes encoding transplantation antigens are placed both within and outside the major histocompatibility complex (MHC). The human MHC is located on the short arm of chromosome 6 and contains a series of genes encoding two distinct types of highly polymorphic cell surface glycoproteins. Donors for HSCT are routinely selected based on the level of matching for HLA-A, -B, -C, -DRB1, and -DQB1 loci. However, disease relapse, graft-versus-host-disease, and infection remain significant risk factors of morbidity and mortality. In the same breath, in high-risk patients, graft-versus-leukemia effects inherent in HLA mismatching play a substantial immunological role to limit the recurrence of post-transplant disease. The definition of a suitable donor is ever changing, shaped not only by current typing technology, but also by the specific transplant procedure. Indeed, a more complete understanding of permissible HLA mismatches and the role of Killer Immunoglobulin-like receptors’ genes increases the availability of HLA-haploidentical and unrelated donors.

Original languageEnglish
Article number621
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 22 2018


  • Anti-HLA antibodies
  • Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT)
  • Human leukocyte antigens (HLA)
  • Major histocompatibility complex (MHC)
  • Natural killer (NK) cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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