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Effect of different immunosuppressive drugs on immune cells from young and old healthy persons.

Authors: Kathrin K. Welzl, Georg G. Kern, Gert G. Mayer, Birgit B. Weinberger, Marcus D MD. Säemann, Gisela G. Sturm, Beatrix B. Grubeck-Loebenstein, Christian C. Koppelstaetter
Published: 01/16/2014, Gerontology


Life expectancy, as well as the average age of patients undergoing solid organ transplantation, increases constantly. Consequently, immunosuppressive therapy is no longer limited to young organ recipients.


Here, we investigate how different types of immunosuppressive therapy, namely the calcineurin inhibitors cyclosporin A and tacrolimus, as well as the mTOR inhibitor rapamycin, affect the function of immune cells in young and elderly persons.


Proliferation, cell viability, cytokine production (IL-2, IFN-γ), H2O2 production and telomere length of phytohemagglutinin (PHA)-stimulated human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) of young (n = 13; median age 27 years) and old (n = 19; median age 71 years) healthy donors were analyzed.


The inhibition of proliferation was dampened in PBMCs from elderly donors, especially after incubation with rapamycin. All three immunosuppressive drugs inhibited the production of IL-2 equally well, whereas the production of IFN-γ was less well inhibited by rapamycin. Both calcineurin inhibitors increased H2O2 concentrations after stimulation with PHA and led to a shortening of telomeres in PBMCs from young and old individuals. Rapamycin had only minor effects on H2O2 production and telomere length.


Our results demonstrate that the effects of immunosuppressive drugs on PBMCs differ between young and elderly persons. Calcineurin inhibitors compared to rapamycin have a more pronounced prosenescence effect. These data indicate that specific treatment regimens for the elderly might therefore be considered.

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