Contrasting effects of cyclosporine and rapamycin in de novo generation of alloantigen-specific regulatory T cells

Am J Transplant. 2007 Jul;7(7):1722-32. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-6143.2007.01842.x. Epub 2007 May 19.


The outcome of T-cell-mediated responses, immunity or tolerance, critically depends on the balance of cytopathic versus regulatory T (T(reg)) cells. In the creation of stable tolerance to MHC incompatible allografts, reducing the unusually large mass of donor-reactive cytopathic T effector (T(eff)) cells via apoptosis is often required. Cyclosporine (CsA) blocks activation-induced cell death (AICD) of T(eff) cells, and is detrimental to tolerance induction by costimulation blockade, whereas Rapamycin (RPM) preserves AICD, and augments the potential of costimulation blockade to create tolerance. While differences between CsA and RPM in influencing apoptosis of activated graft-destructive T(eff) cells are apparent, their effects on graft-protective T(reg) cells remain enigmatic. Moreover, it is unclear whether tolerizing regimens foster conversion of naïve peripheral T cells into alloantigen-specific T(reg) cells for graft protection. Here we show, using reporter mice for T(reg) marker Foxp3, that RPM promotes de novo conversion of alloantigen-specific T(reg) cells, whereas CsA completely inhibits this process. Upon transfer, in vivo converted T(reg) cells potently suppress the rejection of donor but not third party skin grafts. Thus, the differential effects of RPM and CsA on T(eff) and T(reg) cells favor the use of RPM in shifting the balance of aggressive to protective type alloimmunity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cyclosporine
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / immunology
  • Genetic Markers
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / pharmacology*
  • Isoantigens / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Sirolimus
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / drug effects
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology*


  • Forkhead Transcription Factors
  • Foxp3 protein, mouse
  • Genetic Markers
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Isoantigens
  • Cyclosporine
  • Sirolimus