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Clin Immunol. 2005 Feb;114(2):154-63.

The anti-inflammatory action of methotrexate is not mediated by lymphocyte apoptosis, but by the suppression of activation and adhesion molecules.

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  • 1Department of Immunology, Landspitali University Hospital, 101 Reykjavik, Iceland.


Low-dose methotrexate (MTX) is an established and highly effective treatment for severe psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis; however, its mechanism of action remains unclear. We investigated the effects of low-dose MTX on antigen-stimulated peripheral blood mononuclear cells and explored through which cellular pathways these effects are mediated. We show that MTX caused a dose-dependent suppression of T cell activation and adhesion molecule expression, and this was not due to lymphocyte apoptosis. The suppression of intercellular adhesion molecule (ICAM)-1 was adenosine and folate-dependent, while MTX suppression of the skin-homing cutaneous lymphocyte-associated antigen (CLA) was adenosine-independent. The effect of MTX on CLA, but not ICAM-1, required the constant presence of MTX in cultures. Thus, the suppression of T cell activation and T cell adhesion molecule expression, rather than apoptosis, mediated in part by adenosine or polyglutamated MTX or both, are important mechanisms in the anti-inflammatory action of MTX.

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