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Blood. 2001 Mar 15;97(6):1742-9.

Selective inhibition of interleukin-4 gene expression in human T cells by aspirin.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA.


Previous studies indicated that aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid [ASA]) can have profound immunomodulatory effects by regulating cytokine gene expression in several types of cells. This study is the first in which concentrations of ASA in the therapeutic range were found to significantly reduce interleukin (IL)-4 secretion and RNA expression in freshly isolated and mitogen-primed human CD4+ T cells. In contrast, ASA did not affect IL-13, interferon-gamma, and IL-2 expression. ASA inhibited IL-4, but not IL-2, promoter-driven chloramphenicol acetyltransferase expression in transiently transfected Jurkat T cells. The structurally unrelated nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs indomethacin and flurbiprofen did not affect cytokine gene expression in T cells, whereas the weak cyclo-oxygenase inhibitor salicylic acid was at least as effective as ASA in inhibiting IL-4 expression and promoter activity. The inhibitory effect of ASA on IL-4 transcription was not mediated by decreased nuclear expression of the known salicylate target nuclear factor (NF)-kappaB and was accompanied by reduced binding of an inducible factor to an IL-4 promoter region upstream of, but not overlapping, the NF of activated T cells- and NF-kappaB-binding P1 element. It is concluded that anti-inflammatory salicylates, by means of a previously unrecognized mechanism of action, can influence the nature of adaptive immune responses by selectively inhibiting the expression of IL-4, a critical effector of these responses, in CD4+ T cells.

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