Transcriptional inhibition of insulin by FK506 and possible involvement of FK506 binding protein-12 in pancreatic beta-cell

Transplantation. 1995 Jun 15;59(11):1606-13.


FK506 (tacrolimus) is a strong immunosuppressant: it has been approved as a drug for liver transplantation in Japan, the United States, and the United Kingdom. One of its main adverse effects is hyperglycemia. Thus, in this study, we investigated the mechanism and the reversibility of the hyperglycemia caused by FK506. FK506 did not affect the glucose uptake by insulin into rat strio-muscle cell line, but suppressed insulin production in rat insulinoma cells. Two-week oral administration of FK506 at 10 mg/kg/day suppressed insulin production time-dependently at the transcriptional step in pancreatic beta-cells, while glucagon content in pancreatic alpha-cells was not affected. When FK506 administration was stopped in these rats, insulin mRNA transcription and insulin production returned to normal. This recovery indicates that the adverse effect of FK506 on the pancreas is reversible. A high content of FK506 binding protein-12 (FKBP-12) in the pancreatic beta-cells was confirmed by immunostaining with anti-human FKBP-12 mAb, but the content was less in the pancreatic alpha-cells and almost negligible in the acinar cells. In contrast, a high content of calcineurin in the pancreatic alpha-cells was confirmed by using anti-calcineurin polyclonal antibody, but this content was less in the pancreatic beta-cells and not found in the acinar cells. Thus, as in the case with NF-AT in T cells, these findings point to the reduction of unidentified nuclear factors for insulin mRNA transcription caused by the binding of FK506 to FKBP-12 and a subsequent inhibition of calcineurin in the beta-cells.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carrier Proteins / physiology*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / physiology*
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / physiology*
  • Hyperglycemia / chemically induced
  • Hyperglycemia / physiopathology*
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Insulin / genetics*
  • Insulin Antagonists / pharmacology*
  • Islets of Langerhans / metabolism*
  • L Cells
  • Mice
  • RNA, Messenger / drug effects
  • Rats
  • Tacrolimus / pharmacology*
  • Tacrolimus Binding Proteins
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Carrier Proteins
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Heat-Shock Proteins
  • Insulin
  • Insulin Antagonists
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Tacrolimus Binding Proteins
  • Tacrolimus