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The effects of the immunosuppressants cyclosporin A (CsA), FK506 and rapamycin have been compared using murine B cells activated with a variety of mitogens. FK506 is a macrolide antibiotic that has been recently shown to inhibit T cell activation by a mechanism that appears similar to that of CsA. Rapamycin is a macrolide structurally related to FK506 whose mechanism of T cell suppression appears to be distinct from that of FK506 and CsA. While CsA and FK506 were found to preferentially inhibit B cell activation caused by stimuli which induce a rise in intracellular calcium, rapamycin partially inhibited activation by all stimuli tested, including those which are not associated with a calcium flux. All three compounds were found to inhibit cell cycle progression within the G1 phase; however, the rapamycin-sensitive event within G1 was completed earlier than the G1 events inhibited by CsA and FK506. In addition, inhibition of anti-IgM-activated B cells with CsA and FK506, but not with rapamycin, resulted in cell death. These data suggest that although CsA, FK506 and rapamycin are all inhibitors of B cell activation, the inhibitory activity of rapamycin can be clearly distinguished from that of CsA and FK506. Although the suppressive effects of CsA and FK506 on B cell proliferation were nearly identical in this study, their biological activities were distinguishable since FK506, but not CsA, could antagonize rapamycin-mediated suppression.

Original publication




Journal article


European journal of immunology

Publication Date





2277 - 2283


Department of Immunology Research, Merck Sharp and Dohme Research Laboratories, Rahway, New Jersey 07065.


B-Lymphocytes, Animals, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Mice, Polyenes, Sirolimus, Tacrolimus, Cyclosporins, Immunosuppressive Agents, Antibodies, Monoclonal, Histocompatibility Antigens Class II, Anti-Bacterial Agents, Lymphocyte Activation, Cell Cycle, Cell Survival, Kinetics, Female