Bronchiolitis obliterans has emerged as the most significant long-term complication of human heart-lung transplantation. Possible causes include rejection, infection, altered bronchial circulation, and denervation. We attempted to assess the role of some of these possibilities by reviewing the airway histology in nonimmunosup-pressed orthotopic rat left lung allografts in three strain combinations: BN-to-LEW (major histocompatibility complex [MHC]-incompatible) n=27; (LEWxBN)Fi-to- LEW, n=ll; and F344-to-LEW (minor loci-incompatible) n=18. Fifteen syngeneic transplants (LEW-to-LEW) served as controls. After assigning the lungs to a rejection phase (latent, vascular, alveolar, or destructive), the airway pathology was specifically examined. In the latent phase, only changes attributable to transplantation per se were identified. In the vascular phase in the BN-to-LEW rats and (LEWxBN)Fi-to-LEW rats, the bronchioles were surrounded by dense cuffs of activated lymphocytes. The lymphocytic infiltrate then progressively involved the lamina propria and epithelium, where it became associated with focal epithelial cell necrosis. Eventually the epithelium became ulcerated (alveolar phase), and the submucosa and luminal surface became replaced by granulation tissue, which frequently protruded into the lumen in a bronchiolitis obliterans pattern. In the destructive phase the changes were similar to those in the alveolar phase, but were more severe. In the F344-to-LEW rats the airway changes were less prominent, although the remainder of the lungs was at comparable phases of rejection. These changes were not observed in the right (nontransplanted) lungs or the control (LEW-to-LEW) lungs. The findings in these animals suggest that the process of rejection affects the airways and may result in posttransplantation bronchiolitis obliterans.
ASJC Scopus subject areas