Acute allograft rejection and immunosuppression: influence on endogenous melatonin secretion

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Melatonin displays a dose-dependent immunoregulatory effect in vitro and in vivo. Exogenous high-dose melatonin therapy exerted an immunosuppressive effect, abrogating acute rejection (AR), significantly prolonging transplant survival. Endogenous melatonin secretion, in response to heterotopic rat cardiac allograft transplantation (Tx), was investigated during the AR response and under standardized immunosuppressive maintenance therapy with cyclosporin A (CsA) and rapamycin (RPM). Recipients of syngeneic transplants, and recipients of allogeneic grafts, either untreated or receiving immunosuppressive therapy constituted the experimental groups. Endogenous circadian melatonin levels were measured at 07:00, 19:00, and 24:00 hr, using a novel radioimmunoassay (RIA) procedure, under standardized 12-hr-light/dark-conditions (light off: 19:00 hr; light on: 07:00 hr), before and after Tx. Neither the operative trauma, nor the challenge with a perfused allograft or the AR response influenced endogenous melatonin peak secretion. Immunosuppressive therapy with CsA led to a significant increase in peak secretion, measured for days 7 (212 ± 40.7 pg/mL; P < 0.05), 14 (255 ± 13.9 pg/mL; P < 0.001), and 21 (219 ± 34 pg/mL; P < 0.01) after Tx, as compared with naïve animals (155 ± 25.8 pg/mL). In contrast, treatment with RPM significantly decreased the melatonin peak post-Tx up to day 7 (87 ± 25.2 pg/mL; P < 0.001), compared with naïve animals (155 ± 25.8 pg/mL). These findings imply a robust nature of the endogenous circadian melatonin secretion kinetics, even against the background of profound allogeneic stimuli. Immunosuppressive maintenance therapy with CsA and RPM modulated early melatonin secretion, indicating a specific secondary action of these drugs. Further studies are necessary to disclose the long-term effect of immunosuppressive therapy on circadian melatonin secretion in transplant recipients.

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