We and others have previously described signatures of tolerance in kidney transplantation showing the differential expression of B cell–related genes and the relative expansions of B cell subsets. However, in all of these studies, the index group—namely, the tolerant recipients—were not receiving immunosuppression (IS) treatment, unlike the rest of the comparator groups. We aimed to assess the confounding effect of these regimens and develop a novel IS-independent signature of tolerance. Analyzing gene expression in three independent kidney transplant patient cohorts (232 recipients and 14 tolerant patients), we have established that the expression of the previously reported signature was biased by IS regimens, which also influenced transitional B cells. We have defined and validated a new gene expression signature that is independent of drug effects and also differentiates tolerant patients from healthy controls (cross-validated area under the receiver operating characteristic curve [AUC] = 0.81). In a prospective cohort, we have demonstrated that the new signature remained stable before and after steroid withdrawal. In addition, we report on a validated and highly accurate gene expression signature that can be reliably used to identify patients suitable for IS reduction (approximately 12% of stable patients), irrespective of the IS drugs they are receiving. Only a similar approach will make the conduct of pilot clinical trials for IS minimization safe and hence allow critical improvements in kidney posttransplant management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3443-3457
Number of pages15
JournalAmerican Journal of Transplantation
Issue number12
Early online date18 Nov 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016


  • biomarker
  • immunobiology
  • kidney (allograft) function/dysfunction
  • kidney transplantation/nephrology
  • molecular biology
  • tolerance
  • translational research/science


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