This study is the first to demonstrate the humoral and cellular immune response in humans to corneal endothelial cells from genetically engineered pigs. The results suggest that pig corneas may provide an acceptable alternative to human corneas for clinical transplantation.
To compare the in vitro human humoral and cellular immune responses to wild-type (WT) pig corneal endothelial cells (pCECs) with those to pig aortic endothelial cells (pAECs). These responses were further compared with CECs from genetically engineered pigs (α1,3-galactosyltransferase gene-knockout [GTKO] pigs and pigs expressing a human complement-regulatory protein [CD46]) and human donors.
The expression of Galα1,3Gal (Gal), swine leukocyte antigen (SLA) class I and class II on pCECs and pAECs, with or without activation by porcine IFN-γ, was tested by flow cytometry. Pooled human serum was used to measure IgM/IgG binding to and complement-dependent cytotoxicity (CDC) to cells from WT, GTKO, and GTKO/CD46 pigs. The human CD4+ T-cell response to cells from WT, GTKO, GTKO/CD46 pigs and human was tested by mixed lymphocyte reaction (MLR).
There was a lower level of expression of the Gal antigen and of SLA class I and II on the WT pCECs than on the WT pAECs, resulting in less antibody binding and reduced human CD4+ T-cell proliferation. However, lysis of the WT pCECs was equivalent to that of the pAECs, suggesting more susceptibility to injury. There were significantly weaker humoral and cellular responses to the pCECs from GTKO/CD46 pigs compared with the WT pCECs, although the cellular response to the GTKO/CD46 pCECs was greater than to the human CECs.
These data provide the first report of in vitro investigations of CECs from genetically engineered pigs and suggest that pig corneas may provide an acceptable alternative to human corneas for clinical transplantation.