Everolimus and sirolimus antagonize tacrolimus based calcineurin inhibition via competition for FK-binding protein 12

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The calcineurin inhibitors cyclosporin A and tacrolimus and the inhibitors of the mTOR, sirolimus and everolimus bind immunophilins that are required for their immunosuppressive action. In contrast to cyclosporin A, tacrolimus and the mTOR inhibitors (MTIs) share common immunophilins, the FK506-binding proteins (FKBPs). We investigated the immunosuppressive interactions of MTIs on tacrolimus based immune suppression, since insights in immunological drug-drug interactions can be very relevant for optimization of immunosuppressive regimens in allograft transplantation medicine.Isolated peripheral blood mononuclear cells from healthy volunteers were incubated with combinations of MTIs and calcineurin inhibitors and when monitored for calcineurin activity and IL-2 excretion after mitogen stimulation, tacrolimus IC50 concentrations shifted to higher concentrations in the presence of MTIs. This antagonism was absent for cyclosporin A, reproducible for 10 healthy volunteers (p < 0.001) and stronger for sirolimus than for everolimus. When cell lysate was treated with and without MTI, tacrolimus and FKBP12, FKBP12 could increase calcineurin inhibition by tacrolimus and reverse the MTI antagonism for both MTIs. These results demonstrate that FKBP12 can be rate limiting for calcineurin inhibition at high tacrolimus concentrations and that the antagonism of sirolimus and everolimus on tacrolimus based immune suppression is mediated via saturation of FKBP12.

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