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J Clin Invest. 1991 Jul;88(1):297-302.

Organ specific cytokine therapy. Local activation of mononuclear phagocytes by delivery of an aerosol of recombinant interferon-gamma to the human lung.

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Pulmonary Branch, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892.


In the context of the central role of the alveolar macrophage in host defense of the respiratory epithelial surface, and the ability of IFN-gamma to activate mononuclear phagocytes, we have evaluated strategies to use rIFN-gamma to activate human alveolar macrophages in vivo. To accomplish this, rIFN-gamma was administered to nonsmoking normals, the amounts of IFN-gamma quantified in serum and respiratory epithelial lining fluid (ELF) and the status of IFN-gamma related activation of blood monocytes and alveolar macrophages was evaluated by quantifying the expression of mRNA transcripts of IP-10, a gene induced specifically by IFN-gamma. Systemic administration (subcutaneous) of maximally tolerated amounts of rIFN-gamma (250 micrograms) was followed by detectable levels of IFN-gamma in serum but not ELF, the expression of IP-10 transcripts in blood monocytes but not alveolar macrophages, and multiple systemic adverse effects. To circumvent the inability of systemic administration to reach respiratory ELF and activate alveolar macrophages, rIFN-gamma (250-1,000 micrograms) was inhaled as an aerosol once daily for 3 d. Strikingly, while IFN-gamma was not detected in serum it was detectable in respiratory ELF in a dose-dependent fashion. Further, alveolar macrophages, but not blood monocytes, expressed IP-10 mRNA transcripts and, importantly, inhalation of aerosolized rIFN-gamma was not associated with local or systemic adverse effects. Thus, it is feasible to use rIFN-gamma to activate alveolar macrophages by targeting the cytokine directly to the lung. These data suggest a potential strategy for targeted cytokine therapy, without systemic side effects, to augment respiratory tract defenses in individuals at risk for or with lung infection.

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