Comparative dose-dependence study of FK506 and cyclosporin A on the rate of axonal regeneration in the rat sciatic nerve

M S Wang, M Zeleny-Pooley, B G Gold
Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics 1997, 282 (2): 1084-93
The new immunosuppressant drug FK506 (Tacrolimus) increases the rate of nerve regeneration in vivo (Gold et al., 1994; Gold et al., 1995). In the present study, we have examined the dose-dependence of FK506's ability to enhance nerve regeneration. In the first set of experiments, rats received daily s.c. injections of FK506 (2 mg/kg, 5 mg/kg or 10 mg/kg) for 18 days after a sciatic nerve crush injury. Signs of functional recovery in the hind feet appeared earlier than in saline-treated control rats at all three FK506 dosage; recovery was maximally accelerated in the 5-mg/kg group. Light microscopy at 18 days after nerve crush revealed more regenerating myelinated fibers in FK506-treated rats than in controls; this was most apparent in the 5-mg/kg group. Morphometric analysis of axonal areas in the soleus nerve confirmed that axonal calibers were maximally increased in the 5-mg/kg group. In the second set of experiments, the rate of axonal regeneration was determined by radiolabeling the L5 dorsal root ganglion. Regeneration rate for sensory axons was maximally increased (by 34%) in the 5-mg/kg group. In contrast, cyclosporin A (10 or 50 mg/kg; dosages were selected on the basis of the 1/10 lower potency of cyclosporin A) did not significantly alter the rate of axonal regeneration. Cyclosporin A (50 mg/kg) also failed to increase functional recovery or axonal calibers in the soleus nerve. Because the two drugs share a common mechanism for producing immunosuppression (i.e., calcineurin inhibition), these results indicate that FK506's nerve regenerative property involves a distinct, calcineurin-independent mechanism.

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