Neonatal porcine pancreases may be a potential source of islets for transplantation into patients with type 1 diabetes; however, whether these cellular grafts will be susceptible to damage by human natural antibody-mediated rejection remains controversial. Although we and others have demonstrated that porcine islets bind human IgG and IgM, it remains unknown if they express the xenoreactive antigen Gal alpha(1,3)Gal beta(1,4)GlcNAc-R (Gal epitope). In this study, by using the Gal-specific lectin IB4 for immunohistochemistry and fluorescence-activated cell sorter (FACS) analysis, we determined which cell types present in porcine neonatal islet cell (NIC) aggregates express the Gal epitope and which ones are susceptible to lysis by activation of the human complement. After FACS analysis, 30.0 +/- 3.0% of porcine NICs were shown to express Gal, whereas 70.0 +/- 2.0% did not. Histological assessment of Gal-expressing cells revealed that 54.9 +/- 8.8% stained positive for either insulin or glucagon. In contrast, 68.8 +/- 8.4% of the Gal-negative population stained positive for the pancreatic hormones insulin and glucagon. Incubation of either the Gal-positive or -negative cells with human AB serum plus complement for 1.5 h resulted in the lysis of >90% of the cells. These results demonstrate that porcine NIC aggregates are composed of Gal-expressing cells and that expression of Gal is not restricted to nonendocrine cells. Furthermore, both Gal-positive and Gal-negative cells are susceptible to human antibody/complement-mediated cytolysis, suggesting that this form of immunological destruction is an obstacle that will need to be overcome before porcine NIC aggregates can be used clinically.

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