The life-saving benefits of organ transplantation can be thwarted by allograft dysfunction due to both infectious and sterile inflammation post-surgery. Sterile inflammation can occur after necrotic cell death due to the release of endogenous ligands [such as damage-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs) and alarmins], which perpetuate inflammation and ongoing cellular injury via various signaling cascades. Ischemia–reperfusion injury (IRI) is a significant contributor to sterile inflammation after organ transplantation and is associated with detrimental short- and long-term outcomes. While the vicious cycle of sterile inflammation and cellular injury is remarkably consistent amongst different organs and even species, we have begun understanding its mechanistic basis only over the last few decades. This understanding has resulted in the developments of novel, yet non-specific therapies for mitigating IRI-induced graft damage, albeit with moderate results. Thus, further understanding of the mechanisms underlying sterile inflammation after transplantation is critical for identifying personalized therapies to prevent or interrupt this vicious cycle and mitigating allograft dysfunction. In this review, we identify common and distinct pathways of post-transplant sterile inflammation across both heart and lung transplantation that can potentially be targeted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)581-601
Number of pages21
JournalCellular and Molecular Life Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • Adaptive immunity
  • Cell death
  • Ferroptosis
  • Innate immunity
  • Ischemia–reperfusion injury
  • Necroptosis
  • Primary graft dysfunction


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