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Am J Transplant. 2005 Jun;5(6):1204-15.

Low-dose FK506 blocks collar-induced atherosclerotic plaque development and stabilizes plaques in ApoE-/- mice.

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Department of Pathology, Cardiovascular Research Institute Maastricht (CARIM), University of Maastricht, the Netherlands.


Since atherosclerosis is a chronic inflammatory disease, we tested the hypothesis that the immunosuppressive drug FK506 would attenuate the development of atherosclerosis using a mouse model of collar-induced atherosclerosis. ApoE-/- mice were treated for 4 weeks with the immunosuppressive drug FK506 (0.05 mg/kg/day), yielding sustained blood levels (approximately 0.2 ng/mL) without systemic side effects. Atherosclerotic plaque development of FK506-treated mice was significantly reduced (63%) while plaque cell density was increased (52%) compared to controls. Importantly, FK506 also blocked progression of pre-existing atherosclerotic plaques. Plaque area of pre-existing plaques was 35% reduced by FK506. Cell density (35%) and collagen content (51%) were significantly increased, whereas necrotic core content was decreased (42%), indicating a more stable plaque morphology. Similar results were found during spontaneous atherosclerotic plaque development in ApoE-/- mice (treatment 17-25 weeks of age). Flow-cytometric analysis showed no peripheral effects on blood cell count or T-cell activation after FK506-treatment. In vitro, FK506 decreased vascular smooth muscle cell (VSMC) apoptosis and inhibited nuclear factor of activated T cells (NFAT)-luciferase reporter activity at concentrations in the range of the in vivo concentration. Low-dose FK506 inhibits collar-induced atherosclerotic plaque development and progression and induces more stable plaque phenotypes in ApoE-/- mice without any peripheral side effects.

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