Cholestasis and regulation of genes related to drug metabolism and biliary transport in rat liver following treatment with cyclosporine A and sirolimus (Rapamycin)

Pharmacol Toxicol. 2001 Sep;89(3):133-9. doi: 10.1034/j.1600-0773.2001.d01-147.x.


Cyclosporine A and sirolimus are used alone or in combination as immunosuppressants in organ transplantation. To elucidate hepatic side effects, we examined hepatic mRNA of proteins involved in biliary and hepatocellular transport of drugs, formation of glutathione (GSH) and drug metabolising cytochrome P-450 enzymes (CYPs) in rats treated orally for 2 weeks with cyclosporine A (15 mg/kg/day), sirolimus (0.4 mg/kg/day), their combination (same doses), or vehicle. Liver function tests (alanine aminotransferase, alkaline phosphatase, gamma-glutamyl transferase and bilirubin) in blood were then analysed as were hepatic mRNA levels of canalicular transport proteins (Mrp2, Bsep, Mdr1b and Mdr2), sinusoidal transport proteins (Ntcp, Oatp1 and Oatp2), GSH related enzymes (gamma-glutamylcysteine synthetase light (GCSlc) and heavy (GCShc) chain subunits and glutathione-S-transferase) and CYPs (CYP3A9, CYP1A2, CYP2E1 and CYP2BI/II). Cyclosporine A caused moderate cholestatic changes in liver enzymes, which was synergistically exacerbated by sirolimus. The data suggest that the underlying mechanisms behind cholestasis were not totally identical in the different treatment regimens. Cholestasis secondary to cyclosporine A could be related to reduction in mRNA expression of GSH synthesising enzymes and Mrp2, leading to reduced protection against oxidative stress and reduced bile acid-independent bile flow. After sirolimus treatment, Mrp2 mRNA was also reduced together with reduced levels of most CYPs and increased Oatp2, possibly leading to accumulation of toxic metabolites in the hepatocytes. The enhanced cholestatic effect of the combination treatment could be related to reduced GSH synthesising enzymes and even more pronounced reduction in Mrp2 mRNA and increase of Oatp2 mRNA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carrier Proteins / genetics
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism
  • Cholestasis / chemically induced*
  • Cholestasis / enzymology
  • Cholestasis / genetics
  • Cyclosporine / pharmacology*
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / genetics
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / metabolism
  • Drug Interactions
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Glutathione / metabolism
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / pharmacology*
  • Liver / drug effects*
  • Liver / enzymology
  • Liver Function Tests
  • Liver Transplantation
  • Male
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Sirolimus / pharmacology*


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Cyclosporine
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System
  • Glutathione
  • Sirolimus