The calcineurin inhibitors ciclosporin (cyclosporine) and tacrolimus are immunosuppressant drugs used for the prevention of organ rejection following transplantation. Both agents are metabolic substrates for cytochrome P450 (CYP) 3A enzymes--in particular, CYP3A4 and CYP3A5--and are transported out of cells via P-glycoprotein (ABCB1). Several single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) have been identified in the genes encoding for CYP3A4, CYP3A5 and P-glycoprotein, including CYP3A4 -392A>G (rs2740574), CYP3A5 6986A>G (rs776746), ABCB1 3435C>T (rs1045642), ABCB1 1236C>T (rs1128503) and ABCB1 2677G>T/A (rs2032582). The aim of this review is to provide the clinician with an extensive overview of the recent literature on the known effects of these SNPs on the pharmacokinetics of ciclosporin and tacrolimus in solid-organ transplant recipients. Literature searches were performed, and all relevant primary research articles were critiqued and summarized. Influence of the CYP3A4 -392A>G SNP on the pharmacokinetics of either ciclosporin or tacrolimus appears limited. Variability in CYP3A4 expression due to environmental factors is likely to be more important than patient genotype. Influence of the CYP3A5 6986A>G SNP on the pharmacokinetics of ciclosporin is also uncertain and likely to be small. CYP3A4 may play a more dominant role than CYP3A5 in the metabolism of ciclosporin. The CYP3A5 6986A>G SNP has a well established influence on the pharmacokinetics of tacrolimus. Several studies in kidney, heart and liver transplant recipients have reported an approximate halving of tacrolimus dose-adjusted trough concentrations and doubling of tacrolimus dose requirements in heterozygous or homozygous carriers of a CYP3A5*1 wild-type allele compared with homozygous carriers of a CYP3A5*3 variant allele. Carriers of a CYP3A5*1 allele take a longer time to reach target blood tacrolimus concentrations. Influence of ABCB1 3435C>T, 1236C>T and 2677G>T/A SNPs on the pharmacokinetics of ciclosporin and tacrolimus remains uncertain, with inconsistent results. Genetic linkage between the three variant genotypes suggests that the pharmacokinetic effects are complex and not related to any one ABCB1 SNP. It is likely that these polymorphisms exert a small but combined effect, which is additive to the effects of the CYP3A5 6986A>G SNP. In liver transplant patients, recipient and donor liver genotypes may act together in determining overall drug disposition, hence the importance of assessing both. Studies with low patient numbers may account for many inconsistent results to date. Meta-analyses of the current data should help resolve some discrepancies. The majority of studies have only evaluated the effects of individual SNPs; however, multiple polymorphisms may interact to produce a combined effect. Further haplotype analyses are likely to be useful. It is not yet clear whether pharmacogenetic profiling of calcineurin inhibitors will be a useful clinical tool for personalizing immunosuppressant therapy.
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