Leflunomide prolongs pulmonary allograft and xenograft survival

D. D. Yuh, K. L. Gandy, R. E. Morris, G. Hoyt, J. Gutierrez, B. A. Reitz, R. C. Robbins

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21 Scopus citations


Background: Leflunomide, an isoxazole derivative, has been shown to effectively prolong rodent allograft and cardiac xenograft survival. In vitro studies suggest that leflunomide inhibits the production of donor-specific antibodies and is capable of blocking both T- and B-cell proliferation. In light of the significant role that humoral immunity is believed to play in chronic pulmonary allograft rejection as well as hyperacute and accelerated acute xenograft rejection, we examined the efficacy of leflunomide in prolonging pulmonary allografts and xenografts and its effect on donor- specific antibody production. Methods: Lungs from Brown Norway rats or Golden Syrian hamsters were orthotopically transplanted into Lewis rat recipients. Allograft recipients were treated daily for 14 days with vehicle, leflunomide (15 mg/kg/day orally), or cyclosporine (7.5 mg/kg/day orally) starting on the day of grafting (day 0). In xenograft recipients, leflunomide (20 mg/kg/day orally) or cyclosporine (7.5 mg/kg/day orally) treatment initiated on day 0 was continued until complete graft rejection the leflunomide dosage was reduced to 10 mg/kg/day after day 14 because of weight loss and leukopenia. Graft viability was assessed with chest radiography in conjunction with open lung biopsies. Toxicity was monitored with body weight measurements, complete blood counts, and serum chemistries. Flow cytometric analysis of serum samples taken from graft recipients on day 7 was used to measure donor- specific immunoglobulin M and immunoglobulin G antibody titers. Results: Allograft and xenograft control animals receiving vehicle yielded graft survival times of 6.0 ± 0.0 and 5.4 ± 0.6 days, respectively. Although xenograft recipients treated with cyclosporine (7.5 ms/kg/day orally) showed no significant graft prolongation, pulmonary allograft survival in recipients receiving cyclosporine alone was significantly prolonged to 28.2 ± 0.7 days. Leflunomide-treated allograft (15 mg/kg/day orally) and xenograft (20 mg/kg/day orally) recipients displayed significant graft prolongation to 28.2 ± 0.7 days and 15.8 ± 3.3 days, respectively. Cyclosporine (7.5 mg/kg/day orally) enhanced the effect of leflunomide (20 mg/kg/day orally) in xenograft recipients with a mean graft survival time of 36.0 ± 3.0 days achieved when both drugs were administered concomitantly. Cyclosporine significantly suppressed donor-specific immunoglobulin G antibody tilers in both pulmonary allograft and xenograft recipients while not affecting immunoglobulin M levels. Leflunomide markedly suppressed both immunoglobulin G and immunoglobulin M donor specific antibody titers in allograft and xenograft recipients. Except for mild leukopenia and anemia, both cyclosporine- and leflunomide-treated allograft recipients showed no evidence of toxic side effects after 14 days of therapy. However, leflunomide-treated xenograft recipients displayed significant weight loss, anemia, and leukopenia after 14 days of treatment with one death in each treatment group. Conclusions: On the basis of these results, we conclude that leflunomide (1) prolongs both pulmonary allograft and xenograft survival, (2) markedly suppresses donor- specific immunoglobulin G and immunoglobulin M antibody production in allograft and xenograft recipients, (3) exhibits toxicity at doses in excess of 15 mg/kg/day in rats after whole lung transplantation, and (4) interacts favorably with cyclosporine in prolonging xenograft survival.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1136-1144
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Heart and Lung Transplantation
Issue number6 I
StatePublished - 1995
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Transplantation


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