Background: The role of DNA methylation in the regulation of the anti-donor-directed immune response after organ transplantation is unknown. Here, we studied the methylation of two mediators of the immune response: the pro-inflammatory cytokine interferon γ (IFNγ) and the inhibitory receptor programmed death 1 (PD1) in naïve and memory CD8+ T cell subsets in kidney transplant recipients receiving immunosuppressive medication. Both recipients experiencing an episode of acute allograft rejection (rejectors) as well as recipients without rejection (non-rejectors) were included. Results: CpGs in the promoter regions of both IFNγ and PD1 were significantly (p < 0.001) higher methylated in the naïve CD8+ T cells compared to the memory T cell subsets. The methylation status of both IFNγ and PD1 inversely correlated with the percentage of IFNγ or PD1-producing cells. Before transplantation, the methylation status of both IFNγ and PD1 was not significantly different from healthy donors. At 3 months after transplantation, irrespective of rejection and subsequent anti-rejection therapy, the IFNy methylation was significantly higher in the differentiated effector memory CD45RA+ (EMRA) CD8+ T cells (p = 0.01) whereas the PD1 methylation was significantly higher in all memory CD8+ T cell subsets (CD27+ memory; p = 0.02: CD27− memory; p = 0.02: EMRA; p = 0.002). Comparing the increase in methylation in the first 3 months after transplantation between rejectors and non-rejectors demonstrated a significantly more prominent increase in the PD1 methylation in the CD27− memory CD8+ T cells in rejectors (increase in rejectors 14%, increase in non-rejectors 1.9%, p = 0.04). The increase in DNA methylation in the other memory CD8+ T cells was not significantly different between rejectors and non-rejectors. At 12 months after transplantation, the methylation of both IFNγ and PD1 returned to baseline levels. Conclusions: The DNA methylation of both IFNγ and PD1 increases the first 3 months after transplantation in memory CD8+ T cells in kidney transplant recipients. This increase was irrespective of a rejection episode indicating that general factors of the kidney transplantation procedure, including the use of immunosuppressive medication, contribute to these variations in DNA methylation.

Additional Metadata
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13148-016-0288-0, hdl.handle.net/1765/97047
Journal Clinical Epigenetics
Citation
Boer, K, de Wit, L.E.A, Peters, F.S, Hesselink, D.A, Hofland, L.J, Betjes, M.G.H, … Baan, C.C. (2016). Variations in DNA methylation of interferon gamma and programmed death 1 in allograft rejection after kidney transplantation. Clinical Epigenetics, 8(1). doi:10.1186/s13148-016-0288-0