Recovery of blood mononuclear cell calceneurin activity segregates two populations of renal transplant patients with different sensitivities to cyclosporine inhibition

Giampiero Piccinini, Flavio Gaspari, Orietta Signorini, Giuseppe Remuzzi, Norberto Perico

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In vitro studies have shown that the immunosuppressive property of cyclosporine (CsA) depends on its ability to inhibit the phosphatase activity of calcineurin, a critical enzyme for T cell activation. Here we sought to investigate whether measurement of calcineurin activity in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from 30 renal transplant patients given CsA as a part of their immunosuppressive regimen would help in optimizing CsA therapy. We first documented that in PBMC from these patients complete inhibition of calcineurin phosphatase activity by in vitro addition of CsA occurs at concentrations that are easily achieved in vivo for a dose as low as 3 mg/kg/day orally, which corresponds to trough CsA blood levels of 100-150 ng/ml. However, ex vivo, at a blood CsA trough level of 250 ng/ml, calcineurin activity in PBMC was only inhibited from 40% to 70% as compared with controls. Patients on higher doses of CsA had a further inhibition of baseline calcineurin activity, although a complete suppression was never reached. A significant correlation was found between trough CsA concentration and the basal calcineurin activity (r=0.48; P=0.0085). To clarify the relationship between the daily exposure of patients to CsA and changes in the enzyme activity of calcineurin, we then correlated the pharmacokinetic profile of CsA in these patients with different CsA dosing (6-8, >8 mg/kg/day) with the profile of calcineurin activity at different intervals from dosing. Each of the above CsA doses suddenly reduced calcineurin activity, with a nadir at 2 hr after maximum blood concentration. The degree of the inhibition was not a function of peak CsA blood levels. In all patients, CsA blood level returned to basal values 10 hr after dosing. By contrast, only in 50-70% of patients (depending on the dose) did calcineurin activity return to baseline at the same time point after dosing. In summary we have shown that (1) inhibition of calcineurin activity measured ex vivo in PBMC taken from CsA-treated transplanted recipients reflects the blood CsA trough level; (2) after CsA the time-course of inhibition of enzyme activity is relatively independent from CsA pharmacokinetics; (3) the rate of recovery of calcineurin activity 10 hr after CsA dosing segregates two populations of transplanted recipients-one with complete recovery of the enzyme activity and another that never returns to the baseline calcineurin level.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1526-1531
Number of pages6
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - May 27 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Transplantation


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