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The HLA system: immunobiology, HLA typing, antibody screening and crossmatching techniques
  1. W M Howell1,
  2. V Carter1,
  3. B Clark2
  1. 1Department of Histocompatibility & Immunogenetics, NHS Blood and Transplant, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
  2. 2Transplant Immunology, St James's University Hospital, Leeds, UK
  1. Correspondence to W M Howell, Department of Histocompatibility & Immunogenetics, NHS Blood and Transplant, Holland Drive, Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 4NQ, UK; martin.howell{at}


The Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) system plays a critical role in regulating the immune response. As a consequence of its role in immune regulation and exquisite polymorphism, the HLA system also constitutes an immunological barrier which must be avoided or otherwise overcome in clinical transplantation. This introductory review provides a brief summary of the immunobiology of the HLA system and methodology for HLA typing, antibody screening and patient-donor cross-matching. This constitutes a basis for consideration of the importance of these procedures in the system-specific reviews which follow.

  • HLA
  • PCR
  • antibodies
  • crossmatching
  • transplantation

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  • This review by Howell, Carter and Clark was intended to be an introduction to the system species reviews by Clark and Unsworth (J Clin Pathol 2010;63:21–25), Sage (J Clin Pathol 2010;63:194–198), and Carter (J Clin Pathol 2010;63:189–193). Unfortunately the articles became unlinked during the publication process.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.