|Systematic (IUPAC) name|
|Topical, oral, iv|
|Bioavailability||20%, less after eating food rich in fat|
|Metabolism||Hepatic CYP3A4, CYP3A5|
|Biological half-life||11.3 h (range 3.5-40.6 h)|
|CAS Registry Number|
|ATC code||D11 L04|
|Molecular mass||804.018 g/mol|
Tacrolimus (also FK-506 or fujimycin, trade names Prograf, Advagraf, Protopic) is an rejection. It achieves this by inhibiting the production of interleukin-2, a molecule that promotes the development and proliferation of T cells, which are vital to the body's learned (or adaptive) immune response. Tacrolimus is also used in the treatment of other T cell-mediated diseases such as eczema (for which it is applied to the skin in a medicated ointment), severe refractory uveitis after bone marrow transplants, exacerbations of minimal change disease, Kimura's disease and the skin condition vitiligo.
- History 1
- Availability 2
- Mechanism of action 3
Immunosuppression following transplantation 4.1
- Interactions 4.1.1
- Ulcerative colitis 4.2
- Dermatological use 4.3
- Immunosuppression following transplantation 4.1
Side effects 5
From oral and intravenous administration 5.1
- Carcinogenesis and mutagenesis 5.1.1
From topical use 5.2
- Cancer risks 5.2.1
- From oral and intravenous administration 5.1
- Contraindications and precautions 6
- Use as a biological research tool 7
- Pharmacogenetics 8
- See also 9
- References 10
- External links 11
Tacrolimus was discovered in 1987; it was among the first macrolide immunosuppressants discovered, preceded by the discovery of rapamycin (sirolimus) on Rapa Nui (Easter Island) in 1975. It is produced by a type of soil bacterium, Streptomyces tsukubaensis. The name tacrolimus is derived from 'Tsukuba macrolide immunosuppressant'.
Tacrolimus was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1994 for use in liver transplantation; this has been extended to include kidney, heart, small bowel, pancreas, lung, trachea, skin, cornea, bone marrow, and limb transplants.
The branded version of the drug is owned by Astellas Pharma, and is sold under the trade name Prograf, given twice daily. A number of other manufacturers hold marketing authorisation for alternative brands of the twice-daily formulation.
Once-daily formulations with marketing authorisation include Advagraf (Astellas Pharma) and Envarsus (marketed as Envarsus XR in US by Veloxis Pharmaceuticals and marketed in Europe by Chiesi). These formulations are intended to reduce pharmacokinetic variation in blood levels and facilitate compliance with dosing.
A topical formulation is also marketed by Astellas Pharma under the name Protopic.
Mechanism of action
Tacrolimus is a macrolide calcineurin inhibitor. In T-cells, activation of the T-cell receptor normally increases intracellular calcium, which acts via calmodulin to activate calcineurin. Calcineurin then dephosphorylates the transcription factor nuclear factor of activated T-cells (NF-AT), which moves to the nucleus of the T-cell and increases the activity of genes coding for IL-2 and related cytokines. Tacrolimus prevents the dephosphorylation of NF-AT. In detail, Tacrolimus reduces peptidyl-prolyl isomerase activity by binding to the immunophilin FKBP12 (FK506 binding protein) creating a new complex. This FKBP12-FK506 complex interacts with and inhibits calcineurin, thus inhibiting both T-lymphocyte signal transduction and IL-2 transcription. Although this activity is similar to that of cyclosporin, the incidence of acute rejection is reduced by tacrolimus use over cyclosporin. Although short-term immunosuppression concerning patient and graft survival is found to be similar between the two drugs, tacrolimus results in a more favorable lipid profile, and this may have important long-term implications given the prognostic influence of rejection on graft survival.
Immunosuppression following transplantation
It has similar immunosuppressive properties to cyclosporin, but is much more potent. Immunosuppression with tacrolimus was associated with a significantly lower rate of acute rejection compared with ciclosporin-based immunosuppression (30.7% vs 46.4%) in one study. Clinical outcome is better with tacrolimus than with ciclosporin during the first year of liver transplantation. Long-term outcome has not been improved to the same extent. Tacrolimus is normally prescribed as part of a post-transplant cocktail including steroids, mycophenolate, and IL-2 receptor inhibitors. Dosages are titrated to target blood levels. Typical starting doses for once-daily tacrolimus are 0.15-0.20 mg/kg body weight.
Also like cyclosporine, it has a wide range of interactions, including that with grapefruit which increases plasma-tacrolimus concentration. Several of the newer classes of antifungals, especially of the azole class (fluconazole, posaconazole) also increase drug levels by competing for degradative enzymes.
In recent years, tacrolimus has been used to suppress the inflammation associated with ulcerative colitis (UC), a form of inflammatory bowel disease. Although almost exclusively used in trial cases only, tacrolimus has shown to be significantly effective in the suppression of outbreaks of UC.
As an ointment, tacrolimus is used in the treatment of eczema, in particular atopic dermatitis. It suppresses inflammation in a similar way to steroids, and is equally as effective as a mid-potency steroid. An important advantage of tacrolimus is that, unlike steroids, it does not cause skin thinning (atrophy), or other steroid related side effects.
It is applied on the active lesions until they heal off, but may also be used continuously in low doses (twice a week), and applied to the thinner skin over the face and eyelids. Clinical trials of up to one year have been conducted. Recently it has also been used to treat segmental vitiligo in children, especially in areas on the face.
From oral and intravenous administration
Side effects can be severe and include infection, cardiac damage, hypertension, blurred vision, liver and kidney problems (tacrolimus nephrotoxicity), hyperkalemia, hypomagnesemia, hyperglycemia, diabetes mellitus, itching, lung damage (sirolimus also causes lung damage), and various neuropsychiatric problems such as loss of appetite, insomnia, posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome, confusion, weakness, depression, cramps, neuropathy, seizures, tremors, and catatonia.
Carcinogenesis and mutagenesis
In people receiving immunosuppressants to reduce transplant graft rejection, an increase risk of malignancy is a recognised complication. The most common cancers are non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and skin cancers. The risk appears to be related to the intensity and duration of treatment.
From topical use
The most common adverse events associated with the use of topical tacrolimus ointments, especially if used over a wide area, include a burning or itching sensation on the initial applications, with increased sensitivity to sunlight and heat on the affected areas. Less common are flu-like symptoms, headache, cough, and burning eyes.
The use of topical tacrolimus ointments should be avoided on known or suspected malignant lesions. The use of tacrolimus on patients with Netherton's syndrome or similar skin diseases is not recommended. Patients should minimize or avoid natural or artificial sunlight exposure. Skin infections should be cleared prior to application, and the risk of certain skin infections may be increased. Tacrolimus should not be used with occlusive dressings.
Tacrolimus and a related drug for eczema (pimecrolimus) were suspected of carrying a cancer risk, though the matter is still a subject of controversy. The FDA issued a health warning in March 2005 for the drug, based on animal models and a small number of patients. Until further human studies yield more conclusive results, the FDA recommends that users be advised of the potential risks. However, current practice by UK dermatologists is not to consider this a significant real concern and they are increasingly recommending the use of these new drugs.
Contraindications and precautions
- Hepatic disease
- Intravenous administration
- Neoplastic disease, such as:
- Occlusive dressing
- QT interval prolongation
- Sunlight (UV) exposure
- Grapefruit juice
Use as a biological research tool
FK1012, a derivative of tacrolimus, is used as a research tool in chemically induced dimerization applications. The protein FKBP does not normally form dimers but can be caused to dimerize in the presence of this drug. Genetically engineered proteins based on FKBP can be used to manipulate protein localization, signalling pathways and protein activation.
The predominant enzyme responsible for metabolism of tacrolimus is CYP3A5. Genetic variations within CYP3A5 that result in changes to the activity of the CYP3A5 protein can affect concentrations of tacrolimus within the body. In particular, individuals who are homozygous for the G allele at the single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs776746 (also known as CYP3A5 *3/*3) have a non-functional CYP3A5 protein. The frequency of the G allele varies worldwide, from approximately 0.3 in some African populations to 0.9 in Caucasian populations. Across a large number of studies, individuals homozygous for the G allele have been shown to have higher concentrations of tacrolimus and require lower doses of the drug, as compared to individuals who are not homozygous for the G allele. Achieving target concentrations of tacrolimus is important – if levels are too low, then there is a risk of transplant rejection, if levels are too high, there is a risk of drug toxicities. There is evidence to suggest that dosing patients based on rs776746 genotype can result in faster and more frequent achievement of target tacrolimus levels. However, there is a lack of consistent evidence as to whether dosing based on rs776746 genotype results in improved clinical outcomes (such as a decreased risk for transplant rejection or drug toxicities), likely because patients taking tacrolimus are subject to therapeutic drug monitoring.
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- Tacrolimus levels in Liver Transplants-Indian Study by Dr.Pradeep Naik,Dr.Dharmesh Kapoor, Dr.DCS Reddy
- Prograf prescribing information at Fujisawa
- Pimecrolimus (Elidel Cream) FDA adivisory page (for eczema treatment)
- Tacrolimus (FK506) product page from Fermentek
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: Drug Information Portal - Tacrolimus