Immunosuppressant neurotoxicity in rat brain models: oxidative stress and cellular metabolism

Chem Res Toxicol. 2010 Mar 15;23(3):608-19. doi: 10.1021/tx900351q.


Coadministration of the calcineurin inhibitor cyclosporine (CsA) and the mTOR inhibitors sirolimus (SRL) or everolimus (RAD) increases the efficacy of immunosuppression after organ transplantation. Neurotoxicity of CsA is a major clinical problem. Our goal was to assess the effects of CsA, SRL, and RAD on brain cell metabolism. The studies included the comparison of immunosuppressant-mediated effects on glucose metabolism, energy production, and reactive oxygen species (ROS) formation in perfused rat brain slices, primary rat astrocytes, and C6 glioma cells. In brain slices and astrocytes, CsA inhibited Krebs cycle metabolism, while activating anaerobic glycolysis, most likely to compensate for the inhibition of mitochondrial energy production. SRL and RAD inhibited cytosolic glycolysis but did not cause changes in mitochondrial energy production. CsA + SRL inhibited Krebs cycle and glycolysis, thus reducing the ability of the cell to compensate for the negative effects of CsA on mitochondrial nucleoside triphosphate synthesis. In contrast to SRL at the concentrations tested, RAD reduced the CsA-induced ROS formation and antagonized CsA-induced effects on glucose and energy metabolism. Surprisingly, in C6 cells, SRL and RAD exposure resulted in high ROS concentrations without significant impairment of cell metabolism. Our results suggested that SRL enhances CsA-induced ROS formation and negative metabolic effects in brain cells, while RAD seems to antagonize the CsA effects. However, the three models showed different metabolic responses when challenged with the study drugs. In contrast to SRL, RAD enhances ROS formation in C6 glioma cells but has only minor effects on normal rat brain tissue.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / drug effects
  • Astrocytes / metabolism
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cyclosporine / adverse effects*
  • Everolimus
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / adverse effects*
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Sirolimus / adverse effects*
  • Sirolimus / analogs & derivatives*


  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Cyclosporine
  • Everolimus
  • Sirolimus