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Clinics (Sao Paulo). 2008 Jun;63(3):321-8.

Insights into the regulation of TNF-alpha production in human mononuclear cells: the effects of non-specific phosphodiesterase inhibition.

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  • 1Department of Trauma and Critical Care, University of California San Diego Medical Center, San Diego, CA, USA. jderee@ucsd.edu



The objective of this study was to determine the effect of nonspecific phosphodiesterase inhibition on transcription factor activation and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) production in lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-stimulated human mononuclear cells.


The production of TNF-alpha following LPS stimulation is one of the key steps in bacterial sepsis and inflammation. The mechanism by which phosphodiesterase inhibition alters TNF-alpha production in the presence of LPS remains unclear.


Human mononuclear cells were stimulated with LPS (1 microg/mL), in the presence and absence of Pentoxifylline (PTX; 20 mM), a nonspecific phosphodiesterase inhibitor. Western blotting of phosphorylated cytoplasmic I-kBalpha, nuclear factor-kB p65 (NF-kB), and nuclear cAMP-response element binding protein (CREB) was performed. DNA binding of NF-kB and CREB was verified by electrophoretic mobility shift assay. TNF-a levels were determined in the supernatant of stimulated cells in the presence and absence Protein kinase A inhibition by an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA).


PTX was demonstrated to significantly reduce cytoplasmic I-kBalpha phosphorylation, nuclear p65 phosphorylation, and the DNA binding activity of NF-kB. In contrast, PTX markedly enhanced the phosphorylation and DNA binding activity of CREB. Cells concomitantly treated with PTX and LPS secreted similar levels of TNF-a in the presence and absence Protein kinase A inhibition.


The increased level of cAMP that results from phosphodiesterase inhibition affects cytoplasmic and nuclear events, resulting in the attenuation of NF-kB and the activation of CREB transcriptional DNA binding through pathways that are partially Protein kinase A-independent.


PTX-mediated phosphodiesterase inhibition occurs partially through a Protein kinase A-independent pathway and may serve as a useful tool in the attenuation of LPS-induced inflammation.

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