Object. Disturbance of calcium homeostasis contributes to evolving tissue damage and energetic impairment following traumatic brain injury (TBI). Calcium-mediated activation of calcineurin results in production of tissue-damaging nitric oxide and free oxygen radicals. Inhibition of calcineurin induced by the immunosuppressant tacrolimus (FK506) has been shown to reduce structural and functional damage after ischemia. The aims of the present study were to investigate time- and dose-dependent short-term antiedematous effects of tacrolimus following TBI.
Methods. A left temporoparietal contusion (controlled cortical impact injury [CCII]) was induced in 51 male Sprague—Dawley rats. Tacrolimus (1 or 3 mg/kg body weight) was administered by a single intraperitoneal injection at 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or 4 hours after CCII occurred. Control rats received physiological saline. Water contents of traumatized and nontraumatized hemispheres, as well as cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) levels of mediators reflecting tissue damage (the proinflammatory cytokines interleukin [IL]-6 and tumor necrosis factor [TNF]—α, the excitotoxin glutamate, and the adenosine triphosphate—degradation product hypoxanthine), were determined 24 hours after trauma.
Although CSF levels of IL-6 and TNFα were completely suppressed by tacrolimus at all time points and at both concentrations, CSF levels of glutamate and hypoxanthine, as well as edema formation, were only marginally influenced. Significant reduction of cerebral water content was confined to nontraumatized hemispheres. In addition, the higher dose of tacrolimus failed to exert significant antiedematous effects on traumatized hemispheres.
Conclusions. Under the present study design, the potency of tacrolimus in reducing edema formation following CCII seems limited. However, its immunosuppressive effects could be of value in influencing the posttraumatic inflammatory response known to aggravate tissue damage.