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Eur J Immunol. 1995 Oct;25(10):2899-906.

Oxpentifylline inhibits tumor necrosis factor-alpha mRNA transcription and protects against arthritis in mercuric chloride-treated brown Norway rats.

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Department of Medicine, University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine, GB.


The phosphodiesterase inhibitor oxpentifylline (OXP) has a number of potentially important immunomodulatory actions which include a selective inhibition of the Th1 subset of CD4+ cells in vitro and inhibition of tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha mRNA transcription. In vivo, it has a dramatic protective effect against experimental allergic encephalomyelitis. In this animal model, tissue injury is associated with both a Th1 response and with TNF-alpha production, either of which could be targets for the protective action of OXP. In an attempt to clarify the relative importance of the Th cell subsets and TNF-alpha in pathogenesis, we investigated the effect of OXP on a Th2 model of T cell-dependent disease, mercuric chloride (HgCl2)-induced autoimmunity in the Brown Norway rat. The effects of OXP on the Th1:Th2 response, TNF-alpha mRNA transcription in spleen and ankle joints, and on the incidence and severity of arthritis and cecal vasculitis have been examined and the effects in vivo have been compared with those of a soluble TNF receptor-IgG1 fusion protein (sTNFR) that neutralizes rat TNF-alpha. In two separate experiments, OXP significantly enhanced unstimulated levels of splenic interleukin-4 (IL-4) mRNA (median 62%, of an artificial IL-4 mRNA construct, vs. 36.5% in controls) and in one experiment, exaggerated the total IgE response to HgCl2. OXP inhibited HgCl2-induced TNF-alpha mRNA transcription in spleen and ankle joints. In three separate experiments, OXP had a significant protective effect against arthritis, with the mean incidence reduced from 100% to 30% and mean peak score reduced from 7.2 to 2.59 (experiments 1 and 2). The protection against arthritis was indistinguishable from that produced by sTNFR. There was no such protection against cecal vasculitis with either OXP or sTNFR. These results demonstrate that OXP induces a shift towards a Th2 response, inhibits TNF-alpha mRNA transcription locally in joint and systemically in spleen, and has a protective effect against arthritis similar to that produced by sTNFR in the HgCl2-treated BN rat. We conclude that TNF-alpha is a critical cytokine in the pathogenesis of arthritis but not cecal vasculitis in this model, and that inhibition of TNF-alpha transcription is the most important mode of action of OXP in this situation. OXP may be a potential therapeutic agent in the treatment of other arthritides, such as human rheumatoid arthritis, in which TNF-alpha has been implicated in pathogenesis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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