Rapamycin, But Not Cyclosporine or FK506, Alters Natural Killer Cell Function

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Infiltration of natural killer (NK) cells into solid organ allografts is observed in clinical and experimental transplantation. Studies suggest a role for NK cells in acute and chronic rejection of solid organ allografts; however, the effects of immunosuppressive agents on NK cells are not clearly established. Rat NK cell lines were analyzed for proliferation and cytotoxicity in the presence of cyclosporine, FK506, or rapamycin. Lewis recipients of DA liver allografts received immunosuppressive agents after transplantation. NK cells demonstrated robust function both in the absence and presence of cyclosporine and FK506. In contrast, rapamycin significantly inhibited proliferation and cytotoxicity of NK cells. NK cell numbers remained stable in graft recipients treated with cyclosporine and FK506, whereas there was a significant decrease in NK cells in rapamycin-treated recipients. These data indicate that immunosuppressive drugs have differential effects on NK cell function that may impact the immune response of transplant recipients.

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