Background: Acute pyelonephritis (APN) versus acute rejection (AR) is a frequently encountered diagnostic and therapeutic dilemma in kidney transplants. Variable culture results, overlapping histologic features, and persistent graft dysfunction despite antibiotics are frequently encountered. Therefore, we explored the utility of intragraft microRNA profiles to distinguish between allograft APN and AR.
Materials and Methods: Between 2003 and 2011, we identified 49 patients with biopsy features of APN, within the first 2 years posttransplant. MicroRNA profiling was performed on 20 biopsies (normal kidney, n=4; unequivocal AR, n=5; features of APN, n=11).
Results: Only 32% (16/49) of the patients had concomitant positive urine cultures at biopsy, and in 8 of 16 patients, colony count was less than 105 CFU/mL. In 14 of 49 patients, positive urine culture did not coincide with the biopsy, and in 19 of 49 patients, urine cultures were negative. On microRNA profiling, good clustering was seen among the normal kidneys and among AR biopsies. Among the 11 biopsies with features of APN, 4 biopsies showed good clustering with a pattern distinct from AR; (these patients recovered graft function with antibiotics); 7 of 11 biopsies showed heterogeneity in microRNA profiles and variable outcomes with antibiotic treatment. We identified a panel of 25 microRNAs showing statistical difference in expression between AR and APN. MiR-99b, miR-23b let-7b-5p, miR-30a, and miR-145 were validated using qPCR.
Conclusion: Allograft pyelonephritis can be a diagnostic and therapeutic challenge. A gestalt approach is required. In addition to histology and cultures, differential intragraft microRNA expression may prove helpful to distinguish APN from AR in renal allograft biopsies.