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BACKGROUND: The presence of monocyte-macrophage lineage cells in rejecting kidney transplants is associated with worse graft outcome. At present, it is still unclear how the monocyte-macrophage related responses develop after transplantation. Here, we studied the dynamics, phenotypic and functional characteristics of circulating monocytes during the first 6 months after transplantation and aimed to establish the differences between kidney transplant recipients and healthy individuals. METHODS: Phenotype, activation status and cytokine production capacity of classical (CD14++CD16-), intermediate (CD14++CD16+) and non-classical (CD14+CD16++), monocytes were determined by flow cytometry in a cohort of 33 healthy individuals, 30 renal transplant recipients at transplantation, 19 recipients at 3 months and 16 recipients at 6 months after transplantation using a cross-sectional approach. RESULTS: The percentage of both CD16+ monocyte subsets was significantly increased in transplant recipients compared to healthy individuals, indicative of triggered innate immunity (p≤0.039). Enhanced production capacity of tumor necrosis factor-α, interferon-γ and interleukin-1β was observed by monocytes at transplantation compared to healthy individuals. Remarkably, three months post-transplant, in presence of potent immunosuppressive drugs and despite improved kidney function, interferon-γ, tumor necrosis factor-α and interleukin-10 production capacity still remained significantly increased. CONCLUSION: Our data demonstrate a skewed balance towards pro-inflammatory CD16+ monocytes that is present at the time of transplantation and retained for at least 6 months after transplantation. This shift could be one of the important drivers of early post-transplant cellular immunity.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS One

Publication Date





Adult, Aged, Antigens, Surface, Cytokines, Female, Humans, Immunophenotyping, Intracellular Space, Kidney Transplantation, Male, Middle Aged, Monocytes, Phenotype, Receptors, IgG, Young Adult