HLA amino acid Mismatch-Based risk stratification of kidney allograft failure using a novel Machine learning algorithm

OBJECTIVE: While associations between HLA antigen-level mismatches (Ag-MM) and kidney allograft failure are well established, HLA amino acid-level mismatches (AA-MM) have been less explored. Ag-MM fails to consider the substantial variability in the number of MMs at polymorphic amino acid (AA) sites within any given Ag-MM category, which may conceal variable impact on allorecognition. In this study we aim to develop a novel Feature Inclusion Bin Evolver for Risk Stratification (FIBERS) and apply it to automatically discover bins of HLA amino acid mismatches that stratify donor-recipient pairs into low versus high graft survival risk groups.
METHODS: Using data from the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients, we applied FIBERS on a multiethnic population of 166,574 kidney transplants between 2000 and 2017. FIBERS was applied (1) across all HLA-A, B, C, DRB1, and DQB1 locus AA-MMs with comparison to 0-ABDR Ag-MM risk stratification, (2) on AA-MMs within each HLA locus individually, and (3) using cross validation to evaluate FIBERS generalizability. The predictive power of graft failure risk stratification was evaluated while adjusting for donor/recipient characteristics and HLA-A, B, C, DRB1, and DQB1 Ag-MMs as covariates.
RESULTS: FIBERS’s best-performing bin (on AA-MMs across all loci) added significant predictive power (hazard ratio = 1.10, Bonferroni adj. p < 0.001) in stratifying graft failure risk (where low-risk is defined as zero AA-MMs and high-risk is one or more AA-MMs) even after adjusting for Ag-MMs and donor/recipient covariates. The best bin also categorized more than twice as many patients to the low-risk category, compared to traditional 0-ABDR Ag mismatching (∼24.4% vs ∼ 9.1%). When HLA loci were binned individually, the bin for DRB1 exhibited the strongest risk stratification; relative to zero AA-MM, one or more MMs in the bin yielded HR = 1.11, p < 0.005 in a fully adjusted Cox model. AA-MMs at HLA-DRB1 peptide contact sites contributed most to incremental risk of graft failure. Additionally, FIBERS points to possible risk associated with HLA-DQB1 AA-MMs at positions that determine specificity of peptide anchor residues and HLA-DQ heterodimer stability.
CONCLUSION: FIBERS's performance suggests potential for discovery of HLA immunogenetics-based risk stratification of kidney graft failure that outperforms traditional assessment.