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Clin Transplant. 1996 Feb;10(1 Pt 2):118-23.

Molecular mechanisms of new immunosuppressants.

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Division of Nephrology and Immunology, University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine, Edmonton, Canada.


Maintenance immunosuppressive drugs act by partially blocking rate-limiting steps in the immune response. The new maintenance immunosuppressive drugs are either inhibitors of de novo synthesis of nucleotides (purines or pyrimidines), or are immunophilin-binding drugs that inhibit signal transduction in lymphocytes. The new inhibitors of de novo nucleotide synthesis include mycophenolate mofetil (MMF), mizoribine (MZ), brequinar (BQR), and leflunomide (LEF). MMF and MZ act to inhibit de novo purine synthesis, by inhibition of inosine monophosphate dehydrogenase (IMPDH). They create a selective immunodeficiency in T and B lymphocytes. MMF is hydrolyzed to mycophenolic acid (MPA), an uncompetitive inhibitor of IMPDH. MPA reduces the pools of guanine nucleotides, and increases some adenine nucleotides, inhibiting the cell cycle. Thus the number of specific effector T and B lymphocytes is reduced by limiting clonal expansion. MZ is a competitive inhibitor of IMPDH, which creates a similar defect. The relative clinical effectiveness of MMF versus MZ is not known. MMF has been approved in a number of countries; MZ has been approved in Japan. The inhibitors of de novo pyrimidine synthesis (BQR, LEF) act on the enzyme dehydroorotate dehydrogenase. Neither is currently in clinical trials in transplantation. The new immunophilin-binding drugs inhibit either the calcium-dependent phosphatase calcineurin (CN) [tacrolimus (or FK-506) and the microemulsion form of cyclosporine (CsA)] or signaling from growth factor receptors [rapamycin (sirolimus)]. Tacrolimus binds to FK binding protein-12 (FKBP-12) to create a complex that inhibits CN. CsA binds to cyclophilin to create a complex that inhibits CN. Inhibition of CN prevents activation of cytokine genes in T cells. The relative clinic effectiveness of tacrolimus versus microemulsion CsA is unknown. Rapamycin inhibits signaling from growth factor receptors, such as IL-2R. Rapamycin binds to FKBP to create a complex that engages proteins called TOR (target of rapamycin), or RAFT (rapamycin and FKBP target), which may be kinases. The result is a block in the ability of cytokine receptors to activate cell cycling, interfering with clonal expression. Deoxyspergualin, a parenteral drug in development for induction or antirejection therapy, may inhibit intracellular chaperoning by Hsc70, a member of the heat shock protein family. It may have its principal effect by inhibiting the activation of transcription factor NF-kappa B in antigen-presenting cells and monocytes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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