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Res Exp Med (Berl). 1995;195(1):17-29.

Semi-quantitative analysis of cytokine gene expression in blood and cerebrospinal fluid cells by reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Göttingen, Germany.


An easy, reproducible and semi-quantitative, non-radioactive method for the analysis of mRNA expression for various cytokines, (i.e., Interleukin (IL)-1 beta, IL-4, IL-6, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha, lymphotoxin (LT), transforming growth factor (TGF)-beta, interferon (IFN)-gamma and endothelin-1 (ET-1)) in cells from cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) has been established. By means of polymerase chain reaction primers that cover a splice junction, amplification of contaminating DNA was omitted. Densitometric scanning of ethidium bromide-stained agarose gels proved to be very sensitive for semiquantitative analysis of PCR products. Serial tenfold dilutions of cDNA revealed a log-linear regression from 10(6) to 10(2) cells under optimal cycle conditions. The intra- and inter-assay variability of the method was below 10%. With this assay, the cytokine expression pattern of as few as 10(4) mononuclear cells from blood or CSF was determined. This method made it possible to detect differences in the cytokine gene expression pattern of mononuclear cells from patients with different neurological diseases. CSF cells from 43 patients with various neurological diseases were analyzed. TNF-alpha, LT, and IL-1 mRNA were prominent in the CSF cells of most patients with bacterial meningitis. TNF-alpha, LT, IFN-gamma and IL-6 mRNAs were detected in patients with active multiple sclerosis, whereas TNF-alpha, IL-6, and endothelin-1 mRNA expression was found frequently in patients with HIV encephalitis. Pro-inflammatory cytokines were rarely detected in CSF cells from patients with non-inflammatory diseases of the central nervous system. In blood mononuclear cells from patients with multiple sclerosis, TNF-alpha mRNA expression was associated with disease activity. The sensitivity, specificity, velocity and reliability of this assay considerably facilitates the analysis of cytokine production in mononuclear cells even in conditions where only a limited number of cells is available for analysis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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