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Transplantation. 2003 May 15;75(9):1581-90.

Superior T-cell suppression by rapamycin and FK506 over rapamycin and cyclosporine A because of abrogated cytotoxic T-lymphocyte induction, impaired memory responses, and persistent apoptosis.

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  • 1Department for Blood Transfusion and Transplantation Immunology, University Medical Center Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


Immunosuppressive therapy is best achieved with a combination of agents targeting multiple activation steps of T cells. In transplantation, cyclosporine A (CsA) or tacrolimus (FK506) are successfully combined with rapamycin (Rap). Rap and CsA were first considered for combination therapy because FK506 and Rap target the same intracellular protein and thus may act in an antagonistic way. However, in clinical studies, FK506+Rap proved to be effective. To date, there is no in vitro data supporting these in vivo findings, and it is unclear whether the observed effects are T-cell mediated. In a human polyclonal allogeneic in vitro model, we found that although combined drug treatment markedly reduced expansion of naive T cells, T-cell activation occurred irrespective of the drug combination used. The induction of cytotoxic effector T cells was reduced by CsA+Rap but completely abolished by FK506+Rap. Importantly, combined immunosuppression allowed generation of memory CD4+ and CD8+ T cells and hence did not result in T-cell anergy. However, FK506+Rap treatment resulted in a reduced number of allospecific memory T cells showing a decreased cell-cycle turnover and cytokine producing capacity. In contrast, CsA+Rap treatment led to increased memory T-cell numbers responding with elevated kinetics. The ability of Rap to promote apoptosis, which contributes to T-cell suppression, remained unaffected upon combination with FK506 or CsA. These data support the combined use of FK506+Rap over CsA+Rap for immunosuppressive therapy.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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