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J Immunol. 2004 May 1;172(9):5782-9.

Treatment with alpha-galactosylceramide attenuates the development of bleomycin-induced pulmonary fibrosis.

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Department of Respiratory Medicine, University of Tsukuba, Tennoudai, Tsukuba, Japan.


Pulmonary fibrosis is an end-stage disorder for which efficacious therapeutic options are not readily available. Although its pathogenesis is poorly understood, pulmonary fibrosis occurs as a result of various inflammations. NKT cells modulate inflammation because of their ability to produce large amounts of cytokines by stimulation with their glycolipid ligand. In the present study, we investigated the effects of alpha-galactosylceramide (alpha-GalCer), a selective NKT cell ligand, on the development of bleomycin-induced pulmonary fibrosis. Treatment of mice with alpha-GalCer prolonged their survival under bleomycin administration by attenuating the development of pulmonary fibrosis. The protective effects of alpha-GalCer were associated with an increase in the pulmonary level of IFN-gamma and a decrease in the pulmonary level of fibrogenic cytokines such as TGF-beta and connective tissue growth factor. The initial pulmonary inflammation caused by bleomycin was also attenuated by alpha-GalCer with the reduction of the macrophage inflammatory protein-2 level. The protective effects of alpha-GalCer were markedly reduced in mice lacking NKT cells or as a result of treatment with anti-IFN-gamma Ab. These results suggest that alpha-GalCer suppresses bleomycin-induced acute pulmonary inflammation and thus attenuates the development of pulmonary fibrosis possibly by regulating several cytokine levels.

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