Additive effects of leflunomide and tacrolimus in prevention of islet xenograft rejection

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Leflunomide is a low molecular weight immunosuppressive drug which inhibits the enzymes dehydroorotate dehydrogenase and protein tyrosine kinase, both of which are important components in the immune response. As the mechanisms of action of leflunomide and tacrolimus are different, we postulated an additive or synergistic effect of the two drugs and investigated the effects of leflunomide alone, or in combination with a suboptimal dose of tacrolimus, on xenogeneic islet transplantation in a rat-to-mouse model. A total of 1200-1500 rat islets were transplanted under the left kidney capsule of streptozotocin-induced diabetic BALB/c mice. The median survival time (MST) of the untreated group was 6 days. Leflunomide at 5, 10 and 20 mg/kg/d administrated for 10 days significantly prolonged MST to 10, 16 and 20 days. A dose of tacrolimus (2 mg/kg/d) was associated with a graft survival of 9 (range 6-12) days; most grafts rejected during ongoing therapy. When tacrolimus (2 mg/kg/d) was combined with leflunomide (10 mg/kg/d), the survival time of the islet xenografts was increased further to 22 days, significantly longer than with leflunomide or tacrolimus alone. In summary, our findings demonstrate that leflunomide prolonged xenogeneic islet graft survival, and that its immunosuppressive effect was improved when combined with tacrolimus.


  • L Zhang
  • Zhongquan Qi
  • D Wu
  • S Shan
  • Henrik Ekberg
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Immunology in the medical area
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)255-260
JournalScandinavian Journal of Immunology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2004
Publication categoryResearch