Objective: To evaluate the effects of oral rapamycin (RAPA), a macrolide immunosuppressant that has been shown to interfere with T cell activation events, on the course of spontaneous disease progression in the MRL/MpJ/lpr/lpr (MRL/l) mouse model of lupus.
Methods: RAPA treatment (6, 12, or 25 mg/kg 3 times per week) was evaluated by monitoring survival rates, autoantibody levels, and urinary albumin levels. Additionally, concanavalin A responsiveness, interleukin-2 (IL-2) production, lymphoid organ size, and histopathology were evaluated ex vivo.
Results: RAPA prevented the typical rise in anti-double-stranded DNA antibody and urinary albumin levels and prolonged survival. Spleen and lymph node sizes were significantly decreased, inflammatory changes in the lung, liver, kidney, spleen, lymph node, and thymus were significantly reduced, and T cell mitogen-stimulated splenocyte proliferation and IL-2 production were restored.
Conclusion: Data from 3 independent experiments demonstrated that RAPA significantly reduced or prevented many pathologic features of lupus normally seen in the MRL/l mouse, and suggest that RAPA may be useful as a therapeutic agent in SLE in humans.