It remains difficult to predict and to measure the efficacy of pharmacological immunosuppression. We hypothesized that measuring the B-cell repertoire would enable assessment of the overall level of immunosuppression after heart transplantation.In this proof-of-concept study, we implemented a molecular-barcode-based immune repertoire sequencing assay that sensitively and accurately measures the isotype and clonal composition of the circulating B cell repertoire. We used this assay to measure the temporal response of the B cell repertoire to immunosuppression after heart transplantation. We selected a subset of 12 participants from a larger prospective cohort study (ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01985412) that is ongoing at Stanford Medical Center and for which enrollment started in March 2010. This subset of 12 participants was selected to represent post-heart-transplant events, with and without acute rejection (six participants with moderate-to-severe rejection and six without). We analyzed 130 samples from these patients, with an average follow-up period of 15 mo. Immune repertoire sequencing enables the measurement of a patient's net state of immunosuppression (correlation with tacrolimus level, r = -0.867, 95% CI -0.968 to -0.523, p = 0.0014), as well as the diagnosis of acute allograft rejection, which is preceded by increased immune activity with a sensitivity of 71.4% (95% CI 30.3% to 94.9%) and a specificity of 82.0% (95% CI 72.1% to 89.1%) (cell-free donor-derived DNA as noninvasive gold standard). To illustrate the potential of immune repertoire sequencing to monitor atypical post-transplant trajectories, we analyzed two more patients, one with chronic infections and one with amyloidosis. A larger, prospective study will be needed to validate the power of immune repertoire sequencing to predict rejection events, as this proof-of-concept study is limited to a small number of patients who were selected based on several criteria including the availability of a large number of samples and the absence or presence of rejection events.If confirmed in larger, prospective studies, the method described here has potential applications in the tailored management of post-transplant immunosuppression and, more broadly, as a method for assessing the overall activity of the immune system.
View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001890
View details for Web of Science ID 000364466600008
View details for PubMedID 26466143
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4605651