Evidence of an immune-mediated mechanism for an idiosyncratic nevirapine-induced reaction in the female Brown Norway rat

Chem Res Toxicol. 2005 Dec;18(12):1799-813. doi: 10.1021/tx0501132.


Previously, we reported a new animal model of an idiosyncratic drug reaction in which nevirapine causes a skin rash in some rats that has characteristics similar to the reaction that occurs in humans. Strong evidence that the reaction is immune-mediated was found; specifically, low-dose pretreatment induced tolerance, while with rechallenge, the time to onset decreased and the severity increased. Furthermore, splenocytes from rechallenged rats transferred rash susceptibility to naïve recipients. We now report the results of studies to explore the immune aspects of this reaction. T cells were found to play an important role, as demonstrated by their ability to adoptively transfer susceptibility to the skin reaction. Of these T cells, CD4+ cells are the likely effectors because they were capable of transferring susceptibility and the reaction was delayed in rats partially depleted of CD4+ T cells. In contrast, it appears that CD8+ T cells are not essential, as CD8+ T cells were unable to transfer sensitivity to a naïve animal and rats depleted of CD8+ T cells still developed skin rash. Unlike the penicillamine model, where we have demonstrated that the tolerance induced by low-dose treatment is immune-mediated, tolerance induced by low-dose nevirapine appears to be largely due to induction of metabolism as it can be overcome by inhibition of cytochrome P450. Pretreatment with the immunosuppressants, cyclosporine and tacrolimus, prevented the rash and even led to resolution of the rash during nevirapine treatment. These studies reinforce the hypothesis that the reaction in this model is similar to that which occurs in humans. In particular, the finding that CD4+ T cells may play a central role in this model fits with the observation that the incidence of idiosyncratic reactions to nevirapine in humans appears to be lower in patients with low CD4+ counts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adoptive Transfer
  • Animals
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Cyclosporine / pharmacology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Eruptions / immunology*
  • Drug Eruptions / pathology
  • Female
  • Nevirapine / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Nevirapine / metabolism
  • Nevirapine / toxicity*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred BN
  • Spleen / cytology
  • Spleen / drug effects
  • Spleen / immunology
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology*
  • Tacrolimus / pharmacology


  • Cyclosporine
  • Nevirapine
  • Tacrolimus