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J Immunol. 1996 Mar 1;156(5):1799-803.

Neutralization of IL-12 in vivo prevents induction of contact hypersensitivity and induces hapten-specific tolerance.

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Department of Dermatology, University of M√ľnster, Germany.


IL-12 is a heterodimeric cytokine with a powerful positive regulatory influence on the development of Th1 cell-mediated immune responses. Th1 cells are critically involved in contact hypersensitivity (CHS), so we were interested in studying whether IL-12 is of relevance in the induction phase of CHS. BALB/c mice were sensitized by epicutaneous application of 0.5% 2,4-dinitrofluorobenzene (DNFB) on the abdomen, draining lymph nodes obtained at various time points thereafter. RNA was extracted, and PCR analysis was performed using primers specific for the IL-12 subunits p35 and p40. Although p35 was constitutively expressed and not affected by hapten application, p40 transcripts were found to be enhanced in lymph nodes obtained between 12 and 24 h after sensitization. To study whether IL-12 is functionally relevant for the induction of CHS, an mAb directed against recombinant murine IL-12 was injected i.p. 3 and 24 h before sensitization. Challenge was performed 5 days later by painting the left ear with 0.3% DNFB. Whereas mice injected with sodium chloride or an isotype control Ab responded with a normal ear swelling after challenge with DNFB, mice treated with anti-IL-12 Ab showed a significantly reduced ear swelling response. To study whether injection of the IL-12 Ab causes transient nonresponsiveness or tolerance, resensitization was performed after a resting period of 14 days. Groups of mice initially treated with the anti-IL-12 Ab plus DNFB showed only a minimal response to DNFB after resensitization, suggesting that these mice became tolerant. Tolerance appeared to be hapten-specific because these mice could be successfully sensitized with the nonrelated hapten 2,4,6-trinitrochlorobenzene. Furthermore, when the anti-IL-12 Ab was injected into already sensitized mice before challenge, ear swelling response was significantly suppressed, suggesting that IL-12 also is involved in the effector phase of CHS. To exclude the possibility that the inhibitory effect of the anti-IL-12 Ab is simply due to an anti-inflammatory activity of the Ab, the anti-IL-12 Ab was injected i.p. 3 and 24 h before epicutaneous application of the toxic compound croton oil. However, irritant dermatitis elicited by croton oil was not affected by the Ab. Thus, the present study demonstrates that in vivo application of an anti-IL-12 Ab inhibits sensitization and induces hapten-specific tolerance and thus suggests that IL-12 may play a dominant in vivo role in the induction of CHS.

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