• cyclosporin;
  • sirolimus;
  • rapamycin;
  • immunosuppression;
  • synergism

The studies presented herein examined the mechanism(s) whereby sirolimus (SRL) and cyclosporin (CsA) act synergistically to block allograft rejection. Combination index (CI=1 reflects additive, CI<1 antagonistic, and CI<1 synergistic, effects) analysis documented potent synergism between SRL and CsA to block allograft rejection. Combinations of the two drugs produced synergistic prolongation of heart (CI=0.001–0.2) or kidney (CI=0.03–0.5) allograft survival at SRL/CsA ratios ranging from 1:12.5 to 1:200. Pharmacokinetic analysis of the individual drugs showed that CsA does not affect the blood levels of SRL, and SRL mildly increases the levels of CsA in SRL/CsA-treated rats. Quantitative polymerase chain reaction analysis was used to document that both subtherapeutic (1.0 mg/kg) and therapeutic (2.0 or 4.0 mg/kg) CsA doses inhibited the expression of interferon-gamma (IFN-γ) (P<0.03) and IL-2 (P<0.003) mRNA produced by T helper (Th) 1 cells, as well as IL-10 (P<0.001), but not IL-4 (NS) mRNA produced by Th2 cells. Contrariwise, all tested SRL doses (0.02, 0.04 or 0.08 mg/kg) did not affect cytokine mRNA expression. However, heart allografts from rat recipients treated with synergistic SRL/CsA doses displayed reduced levels of IFN-γ (P<0.01), IL-2 (P<0.001) and IL-10 (P<0.001) mRNA. Thus, because subtherapeutic doses of CsA reduce Th1/Th2 activity, thereby facilitating the inhibition of signal transduction by low does of SRL, the two agents act synergistically to inhibit allograft rejection.