BACKGROUND - In the experiment described here, we investigated the effects of the immunosuppressants FK506 and leflunomide (Lef) on the survival of hamster hearts and liver xenografts in Lewis rats.
METHODS - Lewis rats were used as recipients of hamster heart or liver grafts using different regimens of FK506 and Lef. Donor-matched heart grafts were transplanted into long-term surviving Lewis rat recipients of hamster xenografts to test donor-specific prolongation of xenograft survival. Hyperimmune, late xenograft rejection, and naive sera were transferred into long-term surviving Lewis rat recipients of hamster heart xenografts to determine whether these sera could inhibit the efficacy of donor-specific long-term survival. Anti-donor-specific antibodies were analyzed by flow cytometry.
RESULTS - After a short induction with FK506 plus Lef, maintenance treatment with FK506 alone was sufficient to prolong survival of hamster xenografts. All hamster heart and four of six hamster liver xenografts survived for more than 3 months. Second hamster hearts were permanently accepted by Lewis rats bearing long-term surviving hamster heart xenografts when rats were treated with FK506 monotherapy (mean survival time >60 days, n=4). Long-term surviving hamster heart grafts were rejected after transfer of hyperimmune serum but not late xenograft rejection serum or naive serum. Lef and FK506 significantly reduced the production of anti-donor-specific antibodies in Lewis rats transplanted with hamster liver and heart xenografts.
CONCLUSION - Long-term survival of hamster liver and heart xenografts in Lewis rats could be induced by a regimen of short-term FK506 in combination with Lef followed by FK506 monotherapy. The acquired sensitivity of late xenoreactivity to FK506 reflects primarily a modification in the host immune response to the hamster graft.