Pharmacokinetic immunosuppressive drug monitoring poorly correlates with clinical outcomes after solid organ transplantation. A promising method for pharmacodynamic monitoring of tacrolimus (TAC) in T cell subsets of transplant recipients might be the measurement of (phosphorylated) p38MAPK, ERK1/2 and Akt (activated downstream of the T cell receptor) by phospho-specific flow cytometry. Here, blood samples from n = 40 kidney transplant recipients (treated with either TAC-based or belatacept (BELA)-based immunosuppressive drug therapy) were monitored before and throughout the first year after transplantation. After transplantation and in unstimulated samples, p-p38MAPK and p-Akt were inhibited in CD8+ T cells and p-ERK in CD4+ T cells but only in patients who received TAC-based therapy. After activation with PMA/ionomycin, p-p38MAPK and p-AKT were significantly inhibited in CD4+ and CD8+ T cells when TAC was given, compared to pre-transplantation. Eleven BELA-treated patients had a biopsy-proven acute rejection, which was associated with higher p-ERK levels in both CD4+ and CD8+ T cells compared to patients without rejection. In conclusion, phospho-specific flow cytometry is a promising tool to pharmacodynamically monitor TAC-based therapy. In contrast to TAC-based therapy, BELA-based immunosuppression does not inhibit key T cell activation pathways which may contribute to the high rejection incidence among BELA-treated transplant recipients.,
Scientific Reports
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Kannegieter, N.M, Hesselink, D.A, Dieterich, M, de Graav, G.N, Kraaijeveld, R, & Baan, C.C. (2017). Differential T cell signaling pathway activation by tacrolimus and belatacept after kidney transplantation. Scientific Reports, 7(1). doi:10.1038/s41598-017-15542-y