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Am J Transplant. 2006 Nov;6(11):2601-11. Epub 2006 Sep 18.

Antiangiogenic and immunomodulatory effects of rapamycin on islet endothelium: relevance for islet transplantation.

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine and Research Centre for Experimental Medicine (CeRMS), University of Torino, Corso Dogliotti 14, Torino 10126, Italy.


Donor intra-islet endothelial cells contribute to neovascularization after transplantation. Several factors may interfere with this process and ultimately influence islet engraftment. Rapamycin, a central immunosuppressant in islet transplantation, is an mTOR inhibitor that has been shown to inhibit cancer angiogenesis. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of rapamycin on islet endothelium. Rapamycin inhibited the outgrowth of endothelial cells from freshly purified human islets and the formation of capillary-like structures in vitro and in vivo after subcutaneous injection within Matrigel plugs into SCID mice. Rapamycin decreased migration, proliferation and angiogenic properties of human and mouse islet-derived endothelial cell lines with appearance of apoptosis. The expression of angiogenesis-related factors VEGF, alphaVbeta3 integrin and thrombospondin-1 on islet endothelium was altered in the presence of rapamycin. On the other hand, rapamycin decreased the surface expression of molecules involved in immune processes such as ICAM-1 and CD40 and reduced the adhesion of T cells to islet endothelium. Our results suggest that rapamycin exerts dual effects on islet endothelium inducing a simultaneous inhibition of angiogenesis and a down-regulation of receptors involved in lymphocyte adhesion and activation.

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