Sirolimus is the USAN-assigned generic name for the natural product rapamycin. Sirolimus is produced by a strain of Streptomyces hygroscopicus, isolated from a soil sample collected from Rapa Nui commonly known as Easter Island. Although sirolimus was isolated as an antifungal agent with potent anticandida activity, subsequent studies revealed impressive antitumor and immunosuppressive activities. Sirolimus demonstrates activity against several murine tumors, such as B16 43 melanocarcinoma, Colon 26 tumor, EM ependymoblastoma, and mammary and colon 38 solid tumors. Demonstration of the potent immunosuppressive activity of sirolimus in animal models of organ transplantation led to clinical trials and subsequent approval by regulatory authorities for prophylaxis of renal graft rejection. Interest in sirolimus as an immunosuppressive therapy in organ transplantation derives from its unique mechanism of action, its unique side-effect profile, and its ability to synergize with other immunosuppressive agents. It is used in medicine to prevent organ transplant rejection and to treat lymphangioleiomyomatosis. Sirolimus inhibits T-lymphocyte activation and proliferation that occurs in response to antigenic and cytokine (Interleukin [IL]-2, IL-4, and IL-15) stimulation by a mechanism that is distinct from that of other immunosuppressants. Sirolimus also inhibits antibody production. In cells, sirolimus binds to the immunophilin, FK Binding Protein-12 (FKBP-12), to generate an immunosuppressive complex. This complex blocks the activation of the cell-cycle-specific kinase, TOR. The downstream events that follow the inactivation of TOR result in the blockage of cell-cycle progression at the juncture of G1 and S phase. Rapamycin/FKBP12 efficiently inhibit some, but not all, functions of mTOR and hence much interest has been placed in the development of drugs that target the kinase activity of mTOR directly. Studies in experimental models show that sirolimus prolongs allograft (kidney, heart, skin, islet, small bowel, pancreatico-duodenal, and bone marrow) survival in mice, rats, pigs, and/or primates. Sirolimus reverses acute rejection of heart and kidney allografts in rats and prolongs the graft survival in presensitized rats. In some studies, the immunosuppressive effect of sirolimus lasts up to 6 months after discontinuation of therapy. This tolerization effect is alloantigen-specific. In rodent models of autoimmune disease, sirolimus suppresses immune-mediated events associated with systemic lupus erythematosus, collagen-induced arthritis, autoimmune type I diabetes, autoimmune myocarditis, experimental allergic encephalomyelitis, graft-versus-host disease, and autoimmune uveoretinitis. Lymphangioleiomyomatosis involves lung tissue infiltration with smooth muscle-like cells that harbor inactivating mutations of the tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) gene (LAM cells). Loss of TSC gene function activates the mTOR signaling pathway, resulting in cellular proliferation and release of lymphangiogenic growth factors. Sirolimus inhibits the activated mTOR pathway and thus the proliferation of LAM cells. NCATS
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