The Immunosuppressant FK506 Selectively Inhibits Expression of Early T Cell Activation Genes

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FK506, a neutral macrolide with immunosuppressive properties, was shown to selectively and rapidly inhibit the accumulation of IL-2 mRNA, as well as the mRNAs of other early (E) phase T cell activation genes such as IL-3, IL-4, GM-CSF, TNF-α, IFN-γ, and c-myc in activated human peripheral blood T cells. The activity of FK506, when compared to Cyclosporin A, another immunosuppressant, was 10 to 100x more potent in its ability to inhibit IL-2 mRNA synthesis. FK506 inhibited IL-2 mRNA accumulation in Con A, Con A plus PMA, Ionomycin plus PMA, anti-CD3, and anti-CD3 plus PMA activated T cells. Transcripts from other T cell gene classes such as the immediate early (IE) phase gene, c-fos, the late phase (L) genes, transferrin receptor, IL-2Rα-chain, and TNF-β, and the constitutive class genes glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase and class I MHC HLA-B7 were not affected by FK506. The macrolide Rapamycin, which is structurally related to FK506, had no inhibitory effect on IE, E, L, or constitutive class mRNAs, but it appeared to increase the levels of the E-phase transcripts that were inhibited in FK506 treated T cells. The effect of FK506 on inducible genes in non-T and non-lymphoid human cells was studied in LPS-induced monocytes and PMA or IL-1 activated synovial fibroblasts. FK506 did not affect expression of the mRNAs for IL-1α or IL-1β in human monocytes, or of stromelysin, collagenase, or TIMP in synovial fibroblasts. Nuclear run-off transcription studies indicate that FK506 inhibits transcription of the IL-2 gene. These studies suggest that Cyclosporin A and FK506 may effect a common early event in the T cell activation pathway.

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