Exposure to the equine-derived polyclonal antithymocyte preparation, ATGAM, frequently elicits human anti-ATGAM antibody formation. The influence of concomitant immunosuppressants on this antiantibody response has not been established. We therefore evaluated IgG antibody formation to ATGAM in 47 patients receiving ATGAM as part of a prospective, randomized, double-blinded study of mycophenolate mofetil versus azathioprine for maintenance immunosuppression after primary cadaveric renal transplantation. All patients received ATGAM for induction of immunosuppression plus methylprednisolone, prednisone, and cyclosporine. In addition, patients were randomized to receive maintenance immunosuppression consisting of either azathioprine (AZA) 1-2 mg/kg/day, mycophenolate mofetil 2 gm/day (MMF2), or mycophenolate mofetil 3 gm/day (MMF3). Patient sequential sera were independently tested for IgG anti-ATGAM antibody by 2 laboratories, which were blinded to treatment arm assignments, using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays. Both laboratories found significantly greater anti-ATGAM antibody formation in group AZA compared with groups MMF2 and MMF3: Laboratory 1 reported sensitization rates in the 3 groups of 94% (AZA), 50% (MMF2) (P<0.02 vs. AZA), and 60% (MMF3) (P<0.05 vs. AZA); and laboratory 2 reported rates of 67% (AZA), 17% (MMF2) (P<0.02 vs. AZA), and 10% (MMF3) (P<0.02 vs. AZA). In addition, fewer patients formed high titer antibody in the MMF arms compared to the AZA arm: 56% (AZA), 0% (MMF2)(P<0.02 vs. AZA), and 20% (MMF3) (P<0.02 vs. AZA) of patients for laboratory 1; and 20% (AZA), 0% (MMF2) (P<0.05 vs. AZA), and 0% (MMF3) (P<0.05 vs. AZA) of patients for laboratory 2. Differences in test results between the 2 laboratories were explained by differences in the sensitivity of their respective immunoassays and in the criteria used for assigning a positive result to test specimens. In this protocol, MMF at 2-3 gm/day was associated with a reduced incidence and titer of IgG anti-ATGAM antibody formation compared with standard azathioprine dosing. Although MMF previously has been reported to inhibit T cell responses that mediate acute cellular rejection, this is the first demonstration that MMF significantly inhibits human B cell responses to antigen in vivo.
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