Regional haemodynamic effects of cyclosporine A, tacrolimus and sirolimus in conscious rats


Centre for Integrated Systems Biology & Medicine, School of Biomedical Sciences, Medical School, Queen's Medical Centre, Nottingham NG7 2UH. E-mail:


  • The observation that the immunosuppressants, cyclosporine A (CsA) and tacrolimus, have pressor effects, but sirolimus does not, has led to an hypothesis that generalised sympathoexcitation, resulting from inhibition of calcineurin by CsA and tacrolimus underlies their pressor effects, because sirolimus does not inhibit calcineurin. It is unknown if sirolimus has haemodynamic actions not accompanied by a pressor effect, and whether or not the pressor effects of CsA and tacrolimus are accompanied by similar haemodynamic changes. Therefore, the first aim of our studies was to investigate these possibilities in conscious, chronically-instrumented, male, Sprague-Dawley rats.

  • CsA (5.9 mg kg−1 bolus i.v.) caused rapid-onset, prolonged hypertension, tachycardia and mesenteric vasoconstriction. There was a slower onset renal vasoconstriction, but no significant change in hindquarters vascular conductance; all the effects of CsA were significantly greater than those of vehicle. CsA given by infusion (over 30 min or 2 h) caused changes qualitatively similar to those above. Repeated administration of CsA over 4 days did not enhance its cardiovascular effects.

  • Pretreatment with the angiotensin (AT1) receptor antagonist, losartan, and the endothelin (ETA and ETB) receptor antagonist, SB 209670, reduced the pressor and mesenteric vasoconstrictor effects of CsA. Additional administration of the α-adrenoceptor antagonist, phentolamine, completely inhibited the cardiovascular effects of CsA.

  • Tacrolimus (450 μg kg−1 bolus i.v.) caused similar peak pressor and tachycardic effects to CsA, but these were much slower in onset, and were maximal when there were no significant regional vasoconstrictions, indicating that the pressor effect was probably due to a rise in cardiac output. However, although propranolol reversed the tachycardic effect of tacrolimus, it did not influence the pressor response.

  • Sirolimus (450 μg kg−1 bolus i.v.) had no tachycardic action, and only a modest, transient pressor effect, accompanied by equally brief reductions in renal, mesenteric, and hindquarters vascular conductances.

  • The differences between the regional haemodynamic profiles of equipressor doses of CsA and tacrolimus, and the finding that sirolimus has significant cardiovascular actions, indicate that generalised sympathoexcitation, resulting from calcineurin inhibition (with CsA and tacrolimus), is unlikely to be the sole explanation of their pressor effects.

British Journal of Pharmacology (2004) 141, 634–643. doi:10.1038/sj.bjp.0705659