Comparison of methods for donor-derived cell-free DNA quantification in plasma and urine from solid organ transplant recipients.
Wissenschaftlicher Artikel/Review - 27.01.2023
Kueng Nicholas, Arcioni Séverine, Sandberg Fanny, Kuhn Christian, Banz Vanessa, Largiadèr Carlo R, Sidler Daniel, Amstutz Ursula
In allograft monitoring of solid organ transplant recipients, liquid biopsy has emerged as a novel approach using quantification of donor-derived cell-free DNA (dd-cfDNA) in plasma. Despite early clinical implementation and analytical validation of techniques, direct comparisons of dd-cfDNA quantification methods are lacking. Furthermore, data on dd-cfDNA in urine is scarce and high-throughput sequencing-based methods so far have not leveraged unique molecular identifiers (UMIs) for absolute dd-cfDNA quantification. Different dd-cfDNA quantification approaches were compared in urine and plasma of kidney and liver recipients: A) Droplet digital PCR (ddPCR) using allele-specific detection of seven common alleles and the Y chromosome; B) high-throughput sequencing (HTS) using a custom QIAseq DNA panel targeting 121 common polymorphisms; and C) a commercial dd-cfDNA quantification method (AlloSeq cfDNA, CareDx). Dd-cfDNA was quantified as %dd-cfDNA, and for ddPCR and HTS using UMIs additionally as donor copies. In addition, relative and absolute dd-cfDNA levels in urine and plasma were compared in clinically stable recipients. The HTS method presented here showed a strong correlation of the %dd-cfDNA with ddPCR ( = 0.98) and AlloSeq cfDNA ( = 0.99) displaying only minimal to no proportional bias. Absolute dd-cfDNA copies also correlated strongly ( = 0.78) between HTS with UMI and ddPCR albeit with substantial proportional bias (slope: 0.25; 95%-CI: 0.19-0.26). Among 30 stable kidney transplant recipients, the median %dd-cfDNA in urine was 39.5% (interquartile range, IQR: 21.8-58.5%) with 36.6 copies/μmol urinary creatinine (IQR: 18.4-109) and 0.19% (IQR: 0.01-0.43%) with 5.0 copies/ml (IQR: 1.8-12.9) in plasma without any correlation between body fluids. The median %dd-cfDNA in plasma from eight stable liver recipients was 2.2% (IQR: 0.72-4.1%) with 120 copies/ml (IQR: 85.0-138) while the median dd-cfDNA copies/ml was below 0.1 in urine. This first head-to-head comparison of methods for absolute and relative quantification of dd-cfDNA in urine and plasma supports a method-independent %dd-cfDNA cutoff and indicates the suitability of the presented HTS method for absolute dd-cfDNA quantification using UMIs. To evaluate the utility of dd-cfDNA in urine for allograft surveillance, absolute levels instead of relative amounts will most likely be required given the extensive variability of %dd-cfDNA in stable kidney recipients.