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Lab Invest. 2009 Apr;89(4):433-45. doi: 10.1038/labinvest.2009.3. Epub 2009 Feb 2.

Both tacrolimus and sirolimus decrease Th1/Th2 ratio, and increase regulatory T lymphocytes in the liver after ischemia/reperfusion.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, Faculty of Medicine, Complutense University of Madrid, Madrid, Spain.


The protective effects of immunosuppressants against ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) injury have been attributed to their non-specific anti-inflammatory effect. However, these effects may also depend on their effect on T lymphocytes, which are increasingly considered to be key players in I/R. Here, we studied the effects of tacrolimus and sirolimus on lymphocyte subpopulations in an I/R rat model. The animals were treated with tacrolimus, sirolimus or vehicle, before undergoing a 60-min ischemia event of the right hepatic lobe, followed by excision of the remaining liver. After 2 h, I/R rats showed increased mortality, plasma lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) levels, hepatocyte apoptosis, liver histological injury and parenchymal infiltration by neutrophils, macrophages, NK cells and T lymphocytes. Most of the changes were antagonized by both immunosuppressants. Tacrolimus augmented the proportion of cycling cells in I/R rats, whereas sirolimus showed the opposite effect. The increased Th1/Th2 ratio found in I/R livers after 2 h was reverted by immunosuppressants, which also amplified the proportion of CD4(+)CD25(+)Foxp3(+) regulatory T lymphocytes at 24 h. The protective effects of both tacrolimus and sirolimus correlated well with a decreased ratio of proinflammatory to anti-inflammatory T lymphocytes, and with an increase in the Treg proportion. This suggests a new mechanism to explain the known beneficial effect shown by immunosuppressants early after I/R.

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