Mycophenolate mofetil limits renal damage and prolongs life in murine lupus autoimmune disease

Kidney Int. 1997 May;51(5):1583-9. doi: 10.1038/ki.1997.217.


Classical immunosuppressants like cyclophosphamide give excellent results in human lupus nephritis. However, they augment malignancies and viral infections. Here we investigated the effect of the new immunosuppressant agent, mycophenolate mofetil (MMF), in New Zealand Black x New Zealand White (NZBxW) F1 hybrid mice, a model of genetically determined immune complex disease that mimics systemic lupus in humans. MMF has a selective antiproliferative effect on T- and B-lymphocytes, inhibits antibody formation and blocks the glycosylation of lymphocyte glycoproteins involved in the adhesion of leukocytes to endothelial cells. Two groups of NZBxW mice were used: group 1 (N = 20) given daily MMF (60 mg/kg p.o.) and group 2 (N = 15) given daily vehicle alone. Treatment started at three months of age and lasted until the death of the animals. Results showed that percentage of proteinuric mice was significantly reduced by MMF treatment and serum BUN levels were also lower than vehicle. MMF had a suppressive effect on autoantibody production and protected animals from leukopenia and anemia. Life survival of MMF treated lupus mice was significantly improved in respect to untreated animals. Thus, MMF delayed renal function deterioration and prolonged life survival in murine lupus nephritis. MMF has been already recognized as reasonably well tolerated in renal transplant patients and despite its gastrointestinal toxicity its overall safety profile appears superior to azathioprine. Human studies are needed to establish whether MMF may function as a steroid-sparing drug in lupus nephritis.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Antinuclear / blood
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • DNA / immunology
  • Female
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Kidney / drug effects*
  • Kidney / physiopathology
  • Lupus Nephritis / drug therapy*
  • Lupus Nephritis / mortality
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred NZB
  • Mycophenolic Acid / analogs & derivatives*
  • Mycophenolic Acid / pharmacology
  • Mycophenolic Acid / therapeutic use
  • Proteinuria / prevention & control


  • Antibodies, Antinuclear
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • DNA
  • Mycophenolic Acid