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Characterization of a CD46 transgenic pig and protection of transgenic kidneys against hyperacute rejection in non-immunosuppressed baboons.

Loveland BE, Milland J, Kyriakou P, Thorley BR, Christiansen D, Lanteri MB, Regensburg M, Duffield M, French AJ, Williams L, Baker L, Brandon MR, Xing PX, Kahn D, McKenzie IF

  • Journal Xenotransplantation

  • Published 22 Nov 2004

  • Volume 11

  • ISSUE 2

  • Pagination 171-83

  • DOI 10.1046/j.1399-3089.2003.00103.x


Human membrane cofactor protein (CD46) controls complement activation and when expressed sufficiently as a transgene protects xenografts against complement-mediated rejection, as shown here using non-immunosuppressed baboons and heterotopic CD46 transgenic pig kidney xenografts. This report is of a carefully engineered transgene that enables high-level CD46 expression. A novel CD46 minigene was validated by transfection and production of a transgenic pig line. Pig lymphocytes were tested for resistance to antibody and complement-mediated lysis, transgenic tissues were characterized for CD46 expression, and kidneys were transplanted to baboons without immunosuppression. Absorption of anti-Galalpha(1,3)Gal epitope (anti-GAL) serum antibodies was measured. Transgenic pigs expressed high levels of CD46 in all tissues, especially vascular endothelium, with stable expression through three generations that was readily monitored by flow cytometry of transgenic peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC). Transgenic PBMC pre-sensitized with antibody were highly resistant to human complement-mediated lysis which readily lysed normal pig PBMC. Normal pig kidneys transplanted without cold ischemia into non-immunosuppressed adult baboons survived a median of 3.5 h (n = 7) whereas transgenic grafts (n = 9), harvested at approximately 24-h intervals, were either macroscopically normal (at 29, 48 and 68 h) or showed limited macroscopic damage (median > 50 h). Microscopic assessment of transplanted transgenic kidneys showed only focal tubular infarcts with viable renal tissue elsewhere, no endothelial swelling or polymorph adherence and infiltration by lymphocytes beginning at 3 days. Coagulopathy was not a feature of the histology in four kidneys not rejected and assessed at 48 h or later after transplantation. Baboon anti-GAL serum antibody titers were high before transplantation and, in one extensively analyzed recipient, reduced approximately 8-fold within 5.5 h. The data demonstrate that a single CD46 transgene controls hyperacute kidney graft rejection in untreated baboons despite the presence of antibody and complement deposition. The expression levels, tissue distribution and in vitro functional tests indicate highly efficient CD46 function, controlling both classical and alternative pathway complement activation, which suggests it might be the complement regulator of choice to protect xenografts.