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Clin Exp Immunol. 1995 Mar;99(3):461-6.

Anti-inflammatory activity of salmeterol: down-regulation of cytokine production.

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  • 1Department of Cell Physiology, Glaxo Research Institute, Glaxo Inc., Research Triangle Park, NC 27709.


Elevation of intracellular cAMP levels has been shown previously to inhibit cytokine secretion by various cell types in vitro. Since salmeterol is a beta 2-agonist which activates adenylate cyclase, its ability to inhibit cytokine production was evaluated. Though salmeterol, and the related drug albuterol, did not inhibit IL-1 beta production in vitro, both drugs did inhibit tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) secretion by lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-activated THP-1 cells with similar IC50s of approximately 0.1 microM. This inhibition was effectively reversed by the beta 2-antagonist oxprenolol, indicating that the inhibition was mediated through the beta 2-adrenergic receptor. A strikingly different reactivity profile was seen with T cells. Salmeterol was able to inhibit the activation of both mouse and human T cells, as measured by proliferation and IL-2 secretion in response to anti-CD3 antibody, whereas albuterol was completely inactive in these assays. This T cell inhibition by salmeterol was about 10-fold less potent than that for TNF-alpha production, and was not reversed by a beta 2-antagonist, indicating that a different mechanism was involved in the effect of salmeterol on T cells. Paralleling the TNF-alpha inhibitory activity in vitro, oral dosing of salmeterol and albuterol inhibited LPS-induced increase in murine serum TNF level in vivo, with ED50s of approximately 0.1 mg/kg. This inhibition could be abrogated by dosing orally with the beta-blocker propranolol. The long-acting pharmacological profile of salmeterol was apparent in that it maintained its efficacy for 3 h, while albuterol had a much shorter duration of action. Salmeterol also had some protective effects in the galactosamine/LPS model of endotoxic shock, which is dependent upon TNF-alpha production. Though salmeterol inhibited serum TNF-alpha levels by up to 94% in this assay, it protected less than 50% of the animals from the lethal effects of the LPS/galactosamine mixture. This observation suggests that functional levels of TNF-alpha localized in tissues may not be accurately reflected by serum levels.

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