We have previously reported the adverse effects of cyclosporine on small intestine transplant physiology. In this study, we report for the first time the effect of tacrolimus (FK) on graft intestinal blood flow and intramural distribution, vascular resistance, and absorptive function. Isogeneic small intestine transplantation was performed in Lewis rats. Animals were grouped based upon the following treatment schedules: no treatment for 1 week in group 1; 0.6 ml/kg/day i.m. polyethylene glycol (PEG) for 1 week in group 2; 2 mg/kg/day i.m. FK for 1 week in group 3; 0.6 ml/kg/day PEG for 1 week and then 0.3 ml/kg/day for 5 weeks in group 4; 2 mg/kg/day FK for 1 week and then 1 mg/kg/day for 5 weeks in group 5. Group 6 was the same as in group 5 but FK was withdrawn for 1 week prior to assessment. Maltose absorption was measured to evaluate graft absorptive function. Blood flow and its intramural distribution to mucosal and serosal/muscularis layers were determined using the radioactive microsphere technique. Perfusion pressure was measured to calculate vascular resistance. One week of FK administration in group 3 did not change graft hemodynamics and absorption significantly. Prolonged FK treatment up to 6 weeks in group 5 resulted in a significant increase in mucosal vascular resistance (71.0±9.6 versus 47.7±6.7 U/g, P<0.01) and significant decreases in mucosal blood flow (1.14±0.15 versus 1.69±0.24 ml/g/min, P<0.01) and maltose absorption (30 min after loading: 155.4±26.9 versus 216.4±29.6, P<0.01; 60 min after loading: 172.9±24.5 versus 229.1±32.6 glucose mg/dl P<0.01). The serosal/muscularis layer remained relatively unaffected. Withdrawal of FK for 1 week after prolonged treatment in group 6 resulted in restorations of all parameters measured to normal ranges. We conclude that a short course of FK is safe, but prolonged FK administration has harmful effects on the hemodynamics and function of small intestinal transplants. Complete recovery is achieved when FK is discontinued.
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