Clinical outcomes after lung transplantation, a life-saving therapy for patients with end-stage lung diseases, are limited by primary graft dysfunction (PGD). PGD is an early form of acute lung injury with no specific pharmacologic therapies. Here, we present a large multicenter study of plasma and bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) samples collected on the first posttransplant day, a critical time for investigations of immune pathways related to PGD. We demonstrated that ligands for NKG2D receptors were increased in the BAL from participants who developed severe PGD and were associated with increased time to extubation, prolonged intensive care unit length of stay, and poor peak lung function. Neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs) were increased in PGD and correlated with BAL TNF-α and IFN-γ cytokines. Mechanistically, we found that airway epithelial cell NKG2D ligands were increased following hypoxic challenge. NK cell killing of hypoxic airway epithelial cells was abrogated with NKG2D receptor blockade, and TNF-α and IFN-γ provoked neutrophils to release NETs in culture. These data support an aberrant NK cell/neutrophil axis in human PGD pathogenesis. Early measurement of stress ligands and blockade of the NKG2D receptor hold promise for risk stratification and management of PGD.
Daniel R. Calabrese, Tasha Tsao, Mélia Magnen, Colin Valet, Ying Gao, Beñat Mallavia, Jennifer J. Tian, Emily A. Aminian, Kristin M. Wang, Avishai Shemesh, Elman B. Punzalan, Aartik Sarma, Carolyn S. Calfee, Stephanie A. Christenson, Charles R. Langelier, Steven R. Hays, Jeffrey A. Golden, Lorriana E. Leard, Mary Ellen Kleinhenz, Nicholas A. Kolaitis, Rupal Shah, Aida Venado, Lewis L. Lanier, John R. Greenland, David M. Sayah, Abbas Ardehali, Jasleen Kukreja, S. Samuel Weigt, John A. Belperio, Jonathan P. Singer, Mark R. Looney