Bw4 and Bw6 are strongly immunogenic epitopes routinely assigned based on HLA-B typing results per Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) policies. These public epitopes and their variants are shared by some cross-reactive HLA-A and -C antigens. Although epitope mismatch has been associated with poor transplant outcomes, previous studies did not find such associations for Bw4/6 mismatch as defined by HLA-B antigens only. We hypothesized that a broader definition for Bw4/Bw6 mismatch that includes cross-reactive HLA-A and -C antigens may reveal the risk associated with these epitopes. In this retrospective cohort study, we examined kidney transplantations between 2000 and 2016 in the OPTN database and determined the association of Bw4/6 mismatch across all class I HLA antigens and renal graft outcomes. Even by this broader definition, Bw4/6 mismatch was not independently associated with 1-year graft rejection (adjusted OR: 0.99, 95%CI 0.93–1.06) or death-censored graft survival (adjusted HR: 1.02, 95%CI 1.00–1.05). There was no significant association among recipients who were already sensitized at transplant either. Our findings suggest that Bw4/6 mismatch alone is not associated with poor renal graft outcomes despite their strong immunogenicity, and the load of epitope mismatches over a certain threshold is likely required to cause adverse clinical consequences.
- Epitope mismatch
- Kidney transplantation