The Effects of Leflunomide and Cyclosporin A on Rejection of Cardiac Allografts in the Rat

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Leflunomide is a new low molecular weight immunosuppressive drug which inhibits the enzymes dehydroorotate-dehydrogenase and protein tyrosine kinase, both of which are important components in the immune response. As the mechanisms of action of leflunomide and cyclosporin A (CsA) are different, we postulated a synergistic effect of the two drugs and tested graft survival following leflunomide administration alone or in combination with CsA in a rat cardiac transplantation model. Low- and high-responder rat strain combinations were used in parallel and the experiments were performed both with and without challenge with Linomide, an immunomodulator which promotes graft rejection in this model. In the low-responder rat strain combination(Piebald Virol Glaxo graft to Dark Agouti recipient; PVG to DA), graft survival appeared to be a dichotomous variable, being characterized by tolerance or early rejection. Leflunomide (10 or 5 mg/kg) given for 10 days induced tolerance and CsA did likewise; the addition of Linomide abolished the immunosuppressive effect of leflunomide but not that of CsA. In the high-responder combination (DA to PVG), no tolerance was seen and graft survival was moderately prolonged both after leflunomide and after CsA treatment; the addition of Linomide to CsA or to leflunomide (5 mg/kg) abolished the immunosuppressive effect of the drugs. However, when CsA-Linomide or leflunomide-Linomide were supplemented with the second immunosuppressive drug, leflunomide or CsA respectively, graft survival was significantly prolonged (P <0.001 in both cases). This suggests leflunomide and CsA have additive potential.

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