African-American race modifies the influence of tacrolimus concentrations on acute rejection and toxicity in kidney transplant recipients

Pharmacotherapy. 2015 Jun;35(6):569-77. doi: 10.1002/phar.1591. Epub 2015 May 23.


Study objective: To determine the effect of tacrolimus trough concentrations on clinical outcomes in kidney transplantation, while assessing if African-American (AA) race modifies these associations.

Design: Retrospective longitudinal cohort study of solitary adult kidney transplants.

Setting: Large tertiary care transplant center.

Patients: Adult solitary kidney transplant recipients (n=1078) who were AA (n=567) or non-AA (n=511).

Exposure: Mean and regressed slope of tacrolimus trough concentrations. Subtherapeutic concentrations were lower than 8 ng/ml.

Measurements and main results: AA patients were 1.7 times less likely than non-AA patients to achieve therapeutic tacrolimus concentrations (8 ng/ml or higher) during the first year after kidney transplant (35% vs 21%, respectively, p<0.001). AAs not achieving therapeutic concentrations were 2.4 times more likely to have acute cellular rejection (ACR) as compared with AAs achieving therapeutic concentrations (20.8% vs 8.5%, respectively, p<0.01) and 2.5 times more likely to have antibody-mediated rejection (AMR; 8.9% vs 3.6%, respectively, p<0.01). Rates of ACR (8.3% vs 6.7%) and AMR (2.0% vs 0.9% p=0.131) were similar in non-AAs compared across tacrolimus concentration groups. Multivariate modeling confirmed these findings and demonstrated that AAs with low tacrolimus exposure experienced a mild protective effect for the development of interstitial fibrosis/tubular atrophy (IF/TA; hazard ratio [HR] 0.78, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.47-1.32) with the opposite demonstrated in non-AAs (HR 2.2, 95% CI 0.90-5.1).

Conclusion: In contradistinction to non-AAs, AAs who achieve therapeutic tacrolimus concentrations have substantially lower acute rejection rates but are at risk of developing IF/TA. These findings may reflect modifiable time-dependent racial differences in the concentration-effect relationship of tacrolimus. Achievement of therapeutic tacrolimus trough concentrations, potentially through genotyping and more aggressive dosing and monitoring, is essential to minimize the risk of acute rejection in AA kidney transplant recipients.

Keywords: African-American; acute rejection; kidney transplantation; tacrolimus; therapeutic drug monitoring.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Atrophy / chemically induced
  • Black or African American*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Fibrosis / chemically induced
  • Graft Rejection / ethnology*
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / adverse effects
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Kidney Transplantation*
  • Kidney Tubules / pathology*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Tacrolimus / administration & dosage*
  • Tacrolimus / adverse effects
  • Tacrolimus / pharmacokinetics


  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Tacrolimus