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Gene Ther. 1999 May;6(5):771-7.

Prevention of autoimmune diabetes by intramuscular gene therapy with a nonviral vector encoding an interferon-gamma receptor/IgG1 fusion protein.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, McGill University, Montreal, Qc, Canada.


We report on long-term delivery of an interferon-gamma (IFN gamma) inhibitory protein by intramuscular (i.m.) gene therapy. IFN gamma is a cytokine that plays an important role in many inflammatory disorders, including autoimmune insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) in NOD mice and (in various strains) multiple low-dose streptozotocin (STZ)-induced diabetes (MDSD). By cDNA insertion into plasmid VICAL VR-1255 we constructed an expression vector encoding a soluble IFN gamma receptor/IgG1 heavy chain (all murine) fusion protein (IFN gamma R/IgG1). This protein is secreted as a homodimer and neutralizes IFN gamma in vitro. We show that i.m. injections of this vector as naked DNA in mice results in secretion of IFN gamma R/IgG1, with serum levels exceeding 100 ng/ml for months after treatment. These levels are sufficient to neutralize IFN gamma in vivo, and to prevent either MDSD or cyclophosphamide (CYP)-accelerated diabetes in NOD mice, which are both characterized by systemic release of IFN gamma. In these diseases gene therapy considerably reduces inflammation in the islets of Langerhans (insulitis). Also, circulating IFN gamma R/IgG1 blocked IFN gamma-enhanced nitric oxide production by peritoneal macrophages. The fusion protein is constructed from non-immunogenic self elements, avoiding a neutralizing immune response and making it suitable for prolonged therapy of numerous inflammatory disorders.

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