Author(s): Pereira U, Boulais N, Lebonvallet N, Pennec JP, Dorange G
BACKGROUND: Tacrolimus is an immunosuppressant drug currently used for the treatment of atopic dermatitis and pruritus. This topical therapy is effective and safe, but transient burning, stinging and itch are frequently reported. OBJECTIVES: To understand the mechanisms underlying these burning sensations. METHODS: We examined the impact of tacrolimus on substance P (SP) release in an in vitro model of cutaneous neurogenic inflammation. Because phosphorylation of TRPV1 (transient receptor potential subtype vanilloid 1) plays a role in the induction of pain, we investigated whether tacrolimus regulates the phosphorylation state of TRPV1. Finally, we used a macropatch to evaluate the impact of tacrolimus on voltage-gated calcium currents of sensory neurons. RESULTS: Tacrolimus was able to induce initial SP release by extracellular calcium influx and inhibited SP release induced by capsaicin after 1, 24 and 72 h of pretreatment. Analysis of TRPV1 phosphorylation by Western blot confirmed the capacity of tacrolimus to favour phosphorylation. An electrophysiological study showed inhibitory effects on calcium currents. CONCLUSIONS: The efficacy of tacrolimus in pruritus, as well as the sensory side-effects, could be explained by a direct effect on neurons through an effect on calcineurin, possibly by a desensitization of TRPV1 and calcium currents through the PIP(2) regulation pathway.