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J Immunol. 2002 Mar 15;168(6):2644-51.

Thalidomide suppresses NF-kappa B activation induced by TNF and H2O2, but not that activated by ceramide, lipopolysaccharides, or phorbol ester.

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Cytokine Research Laboratory, Department of Bioimmunotherapy, University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


Thalidomide ([+]-alpha-phthalimidoglutarimide), a psychoactive drug that readily crosses the blood-brain barrier, has been shown to exhibit anti-inflammatory, antiangiogenic, and immunosuppressive properties through a mechanism that is not fully established. Due to the central role of NF-kappaB in these responses, we postulated that thalidomide mediates its effects through suppression of NF-kappaB activation. We investigated the effects of thalidomide on NF-kappaB activation induced by various inflammatory agents in Jurkat cells. The treatment of these cells with thalidomide suppressed TNF-induced NF-kappaB activation, with optimum effect occurring at 50 microg/ml thalidomide. These effects were not restricted to T cells, as other hematopoietic and epithelial cell types were also inhibited. Thalidomide suppressed H(2)O(2)-induced NF-kappaB activation but had no effect on NF-kappaB activation induced by PMA, LPS, okadaic acid, or ceramide, suggesting selectivity in suppression of NF-kappaB. The suppression of TNF-induced NF-kappaB activation by thalidomide correlated with partial inhibition of TNF-induced degradation of an inhibitory subunit of NF-kappaB (IkappaBalpha), abrogation of IkappaBalpha kinase activation, and inhibition of NF-kappaB-dependent reporter gene expression. Thalidomide abolished the NF-kappaB-dependent reporter gene expression activated by overexpression of TNFR1, TNFR-associated factor-2, and NF-kappaB-inducing kinase, but not that activated by the p65 subunit of NF-kappaB. Overall, our results clearly demonstrate that thalidomide suppresses NF-kappaB activation specifically induced by TNF and H(2)O(2) and that this may contribute to its role in suppression of proliferation, inflammation, angiogenesis, and the immune system.

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