Effects of ciclosporin A, tacrolimus and sirolimus on cytokine production in neonatal immune cells

Alexander Puzik, Christian Schultz, Peter Iblher, Michael Müller-Steinhardt, Christoph Härtel*

*Corresponding author for this work
8 Citations (Scopus)


Background: It was the aim of this study to evaluate the effects of the well-known immunosuppressive drugs ciclosporin A (CsA), tacrolimus and sirolimus on the intracytoplasmic cytokine expression of neonatal immune cells. Methods: Immunosuppressive drugs were added to whole blood cultures of neonatal cord blood samples (n = 17) and peripheral blood samples of adults (n = 17) in vitro prior to stimulation of lymphocytes with phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA)/ionomycin or monocytes. Results: Upon exposure to ciclosporin A (500 ng/mL) or tacrolimus (25 ng/mL) the number of cytokine expressing T cells was almost completely blocked in neonatal T cells while sirolimus (10 ng/mL) only inhibited intracytoplasmatic tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) expression (mean% positive cells; 4.0 ± 2.1% vs. 1.09 ± 0.6%, p = 0.003), but mildly stimulated the intracellular expression of interleukin (IL)-2 (24.4 ± 6.5% vs. 28.1 ± 7.1%, p = 0.041). In cord blood lymphocytes, the inhibitory effect of ciclosporin A and tacrolimus was dose-dependent (e.g. IL-2: control, 12.3 ± 5.33%, ciclosporin A 5 ng/mL, 10.1 ± 5.5%; 50 ng/mL, 7.1 ± 4.7%; 500 ng/mL, 1.2 ± 0.3%; tacrolimus 0.25 ng/mL, 9.3 ± 4.9%; 2.5 ng/mL, 6.1 ± 3.3%; 25 ng/mL, 1.0 ± 0.6%), while the function of adult lymphocytes was only impaired at high doses of both compounds. In contrast, the number of cytokine expressing monocytes was not influenced by ciclosporin A and tacrolimus except for a minor decrease of TNF-α producing neonatal monocytes after addition of tacrolimus (17.9% vs. 13.9%, p = 0.031). Interestingly, sirolimus was shown to inhibit intracellular IL-6 production in adults (63.1 ± 12.7% vs. 52.0 ± 16.0%, p = 0.005), but in neonatal monocytes intracellular IL-6 expression was stimulated (53.5 ± 22.0% vs. 64.7 ± 19.1%, p = 0.041). Conclusions: The potent dose-dependent inhibitory effect of ciclosporin A and tacrolimus in cord blood lymphocytes provides the basis for further studies on functional immaturity of the neonatal immune system and for future strategies to optimize umbilical cord blood transplantion. Sirolimus was demonstrated to have a distinct effect on neonatal immune cells as shown by increased expression of IL-2 in lymphocytes and IL-6 in monocytes, while only lymphocytic TNF-α expression was inhibited.

Original languageEnglish
JournalActa Paediatrica, International Journal of Paediatrics
Issue number10
Pages (from-to)1483-1489
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 10.2007

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)


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