The Cytomegalovirus-Specific IL-21 ELISpot Correlates with Allograft Function of Kidney Transplant Recipients

In kidney transplant recipients, the cytomegalovirus (CMV) is frequently causing infection/reactivation and can trigger allograft rejection. To assess the risk of reactivation, the cellular immune response against CMV is increasingly assessed by cellular in vitro methods, such as the interferon (IFN)-γ ELISpot. In the current study we compared the IFN-γ ELISpot with our newly established CMV-specific ELISpot assays determining IL-17A, IL-21, IL-22, granzyme B, and perforin and correlated the results with flow cytometric data and clinical parameters. In 77 kidney transplant recipients, the highest frequency was observed for CMV pp65-specific cells secreting IFN-γ, followed by cells secreting IL-21 (62.9 and 23.2 Δ spot forming cells/105 cells). We observed a positive correlation between the percentage of CMV-specific CD3+ CD4+ CD154+ cells and results of the CMV-specific IL-21 ELISpot (p = 0.002). Results of the CMV pp65-specific IL-21 ELISpot correlated negatively with kidney function (estimated glomerular filtration rate, p = 0.006) and were significantly higher in women (p = 0.005). IL-21, a cytokine involved in aging that is secreted by activated CD4+ T cells, may also impact on allograft function. Thus, the CMV-specific IL-21 ELISpot could become a new tool to assess if CMV seropositivity represents a hazard for the graft.


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