Donor-derived cell-free DNA levels predict graft injury in liver transplant recipients

Josh Levitsky, Manoj Kandpal, Kexin Guo, Steve Kleiboeker, Rohita Sinha, Michael Abecassis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Donor-derived cell-free DNA (dd-cfDNA) has been evaluated as a rejection marker in organ transplantation. This study sought to assess the utility of dd-cfDNA to diagnose graft injury in liver transplant recipients (LTR) and as a predictive biomarker prior to different causes of graft dysfunction. Plasma from single and multicenter LTR cohorts was analyzed for dd-cfDNA. Phenotypes of treated biopsy-proven acute rejection (AR, N = 57), normal function (TX, N = 94), and acute dysfunction no rejection (ADNR; N = 68) were divided into training and test sets. In the training set, dd-cfDNA was significantly different between AR versus TX (AUC 0.95, 5.3% cutoff) and AR versus ADNR (AUC 0.71, 20.4% cutoff). Using these cutoffs in the test set, the accuracy and NPV were 87% and 100% (AR vs. TX) and 66.7% and 87.8% (AR vs. ADNR). Blood samples collected serially from LTR demonstrated incremental elevations in dd-cfDNA prior to the onset of graft dysfunction (AR > ADNR), but not in TX. Dd-cfDNA also decreased following treatment of rejection. In conclusion, the serial elevation of dd-cfDNA identifies pre-clinical graft injury in the context of normal liver function tests and is greatest in rejection. This biomarker may help detect early signs of graft injury and rejection to inform LTR management strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)532-540
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Transplantation
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Transplantation
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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