Interacting Mechanisms in the Pathogenesis of Cardiac Allograft Vasculopathy
Cardiac allograft vasculopathy is the major cause of late graft loss in heart transplant recipients. Histological studies of characteristic end-stage lesions reveal arterial changes consisting of a diffuse, confluent, and concentric intimal expansion containing graft-derived cells expressing smooth muscle markers, extracellular matrix, penetrating microvessels, and a host mononuclear cell infiltrate concentrated subjacent to an intact graft-derived luminal endothelial cell lining with little evidence of acute injury. This intimal expansion combined with inadequate compensatory outward remodeling produces severe generalized stenosis extending throughout the epicardial and intramyocardial arterial tree that causes ischemic graft failure. Cardiac allograft vasculopathy lesions affect ≥50% of transplant recipients and are both progressive and refractory to treatment, resulting in ≈5% graft loss per year through the first 10 years after transplant. Lesions typically stop at the suture line, implicating alloimmunity as the primary driver, but pathogenesis may be multifactorial. Here, we will discuss 6 potential contributors to lesion formation (1) conventional risk factors of atherosclerosis; (2) pre- or peritransplant injuries; (3) infection; (4) innate immunity; (5) T-cell–mediated immunity; and (6) B-cell–mediated immunity through production of donor-specific antibody. Finally, we will consider how these various mechanisms may interact with each other.
- Received April 10, 2014.
- Accepted May 27, 2014.
- © 2014 American Heart Association, Inc.