Unbound Plasma, Total Plasma, and Whole-Blood Tacrolimus Pharmacokinetics Early After Thoracic Organ Transplantation

Maaike A. Sikma, Erik M. Van Maarseveen, Claudine C. Hunault, Javier M. Moreno, Ed A. Van de Graaf, Johannes H. Kirkels, Marianne C. Verhaar, Jan C. Grutters, Jozef Kesecioglu, Dylan W. De Lange, Alwin D.R. Huitema

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Abstract: Therapeutic drug monitoring of tacrolimus whole-blood concentrations is standard care in thoracic organ transplantation. Nevertheless, toxicity may appear with alleged therapeutic concentrations possibly related to variability in unbound concentrations. However, pharmacokinetic data on unbound concentrations are not available. The objective of this study was to quantify the pharmacokinetics of whole-blood, total, and unbound plasma tacrolimus in patients early after heart and lung transplantation. Methods: Twelve-hour tacrolimus whole-blood, total, and unbound plasma concentrations of 30 thoracic organ recipients were analyzed with high-performance liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry directly after transplantation. Pharmacokinetic modeling was performed using non-linear mixed-effects modeling. Results: Plasma concentration was < 1% of the whole-blood concentration. Maximum binding capacity of erythrocytes was directly proportional to hematocrit and estimated at 2700 pg/mL (95% confidence interval 1750–3835) with a dissociation constant of 0.142 pg/mL (95% confidence interval 0.087–0.195). The inter-individual variability in the binding constants was considerable (27% maximum binding capacity, and 29% for the linear binding constant of plasma). Conclusions: Tacrolimus association with erythrocytes was high and suggested a non-linear distribution at high concentrations. Monitoring hematocrit-corrected whole-blood tacrolimus concentrations might improve clinical outcomes in clinically unstable thoracic organ transplants. Clinical Trial Registration: NTR 3912/EudraCT 2012-001909-24.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)771-780
Number of pages10
JournalClinical Pharmacokinetics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020
Externally publishedYes


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