Immunosuppressive activity of the Chinese medicinal plant Tripterygium wilfordii. I. Prolongation of rat cardiac and renal allograft survival by the PG27 extract and immunosuppressive synergy in combination therapy with cyclosporine

Transplantation. 2000 Aug 15;70(3):447-55. doi: 10.1097/00007890-200008150-00010.


Background: PG27 is an immunosuppressive fraction purified from an extract of a Chinese medicinal plant, Tripterygium wilfordii. We tested PG27 in rat cardiac and renal allotransplantation, and we examined the immunosuppressive interaction with cyclosporine (CsA).

Methods: Brown Norway (BN) rat heart or kidney allografts were transplanted into the abdomen of Lewis rats, which were treated by the intraperitoneal or oral route with PG27, CsA, or both.

Results: PG27 administered intraperitoneally to Lewis recipients for 16 days at 10-30 mg/kg/day significantly increased the median survival time of BN heart allografts from 7 to 18-22 days. Oral administration was effective, with cardiac allograft survival prolonged to > 100 days with 52 days of treatment. PG27 at 20-30 mg/kg/day significantly extended the median survival time of BN kidney allograft recipients from 9 to 36.5-77 days, and 30 mg/kg/day for 52 days extended survival beyond 200 days. PG27 combined with CsA significantly enhanced heart and kidney allograft survival, even at doses of CsA ineffective when administered alone. The addition of 5 or 10 mg/kg/day PG27 reduced by 50-75% the CsA dose needed for 100% kidney allograft survival. The combination index was less than 1.0, indicating synergy of PG27 with CsA in prolonging cardiac and renal allograft survival. Furthermore, the PG27/CsA combination exerted a positive influence on renal allograft function. PG490 (triptolide, a constituent of PG27) and PG490-88 (a semisynthetic derivative of PG490) suppressed rejection of cardiac and renal allografts.

Conclusions: The PG27 herbal extract demonstrated immunosuppressive activity by prolonging heart and kidney allograft survival, displaying synergy in the immunosuppressive interaction with CsA, and improving renal allograft function in combination with CsA. PG490 and PG490-88 compounds were also effective.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cyclosporine / administration & dosage
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / administration & dosage
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / isolation & purification
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / pharmacology*
  • Graft Rejection / prevention & control
  • Graft Survival / drug effects*
  • Heart Transplantation / immunology
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / administration & dosage
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / isolation & purification
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / pharmacology*
  • Kidney Transplantation / immunology
  • Male
  • Plants, Medicinal*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred BN
  • Rats, Inbred Lew
  • Transplantation, Homologous


  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Cyclosporine