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BACKGROUND: The expression of regulators of complement activity (RCAs) on islet cells may be of great importance for protecting them against complement-mediated lysis in the immediate posttransplant period after intraportal islet transplantation. We examined porcine and human islet cells for expression of RCA. We also examined to what extent human decay accelerating factor (hDAF) is expressed on adult and fetal islet cells isolated from hDAF transgenic (TG) pigs having a high transgene expression on endothelial cells. Moreover, the susceptibility of the various types of cells to lysis in human serum and blood was investigated. METHODS: Adult human islets (n=5), normal adult and fetal porcine islets (n=9 and n=8, respectively), and islets from adult and fetal hDAF TG pigs (n=5 and n=6, respectively) were examined. With islet single-cell suspensions and flow cytometry, adult human islet cells were examined for expression of hDAF (CD55), hCD59, and human membrane cofactor protein (hMCP; CD46), while porcine islet cells were examined for expression of pCD59 and pMCP. Islet cells from hDAF TG pigs were also examined for hDAF expression. Porcine peripheral blood lymphocytes, normal and hDAF TG porcine endothelial cell lines, a human endothelial cell line, and the human cell line U937 served as controls. Islet cytotoxicity was assayed after incubation of the islet cells with fresh human serum. Furthermore, adult islets from normal control pigs and hDAF TG pigs were exposed to fresh human blood in vitro for 60 min, and the inflammatory reaction elicited was compared between the different types of islets. RESULTS: All human islet cell preparations expressed hCD59, two of five expressed hMCP, but none expressed hDAF. Porcine islet cells expressed both pCD59 and pMCP. Normal adult porcine islet cells exposed to fresh human serum resulted in 74+/-5.4% cell lysis (mean+/-SEM, n=16). In comparison, only 1.3+/-2.8% (n=20, P<0.001) of human islet cells were lysed in the human serum. One islet cell preparation from an hDAF TG pig expressed small amounts of hDAF. This preparation from hDAF TG pigs bound significantly less C3c than did normal control islets (mean fluorescence ratio 16+/-2.2 and 58+/-4.3, respectively; P=0.046) and were partially protected from cell lysis in fresh human serum (47+/-10% and 78+/-18% cell lysis, respectively; P=0.046). The other four preparations from hDAF TG pigs were negative for hDAF and were equally susceptible to lysis as normal control islets. All fetal pancreatic islet cells from hDAF TG pigs analyzed were negative for hDAF expression. When exposed to fresh human blood in vitro, adult and fetal islets from hDAF TG pigs elicited equally strong inflammatory changes as did the normal control islets. The inflammatory changes were characterized by activation of the complement and coagulation systems, resulting in islet damage with "dumping" of insulin into the blood. CONCLUSIONS: Porcine and human islet cells express species-restricted complement regulatory proteins, with the human islet cells expressing mainly hCD59. A low expression of hDAF was detected on islet cells from one of five hDAF TG pigs. These islet cells displayed reduced islet cell cytotoxicity in fresh human serum. We conclude that protection from complement-mediated lysis will be important in the context of intraportal pig-to-human islet transplantation, and expression of a human RCA on islet cells should be beneficial in this context.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





312 - 319


Animals, Animals, Genetically Modified, Antigens, CD, Antithrombin III, CD55 Antigens, CD59 Antigens, Cell Line, Complement Membrane Attack Complex, Complement System Proteins, Cytotoxicity, Immunologic, Disaccharides, Endothelium, Vascular, Fetus, Humans, Inflammation, Insulin, Islets of Langerhans, Leukocyte Count, Lymphocyte Count, Lymphocytes, Membrane Cofactor Protein, Membrane Glycoproteins, Peptide Hydrolases, Platelet Count, Reference Values, Swine, U937 Cells