Systemic IFN-beta treatment induces apoptosis of peripheral immune cells in MS patients.

Institute of Neuroimmunology, Neuroscience Research Center, Humboldt-University, NWFZ 2680, Charité, 10098 Berlin, Germany.
Journal of Neuroimmunology (Impact Factor: 2.79). 05/2003; 137(1-2):187-96. DOI: 10.1016/S0165-5728(03)00074-2
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT In multiple sclerosis (MS), an impaired apoptotic deletion of activated CNS-specific immune cells, leading to their pathogenic persistence, has been suggested to maintain chronic brain inflammation. We here investigated whether interferon-beta (IFN-beta) therapy induces apoptosis of peripheral immune cells. Serial blood samples from 127 relapsing-remitting MS patients were analyzed prior to the initiation of a weekly IFN-beta 1a therapy and 4, 26, and 52 weeks thereafter. Peripheral immune cells were investigated for apoptosis and for the expression of apoptosis-regulatory genes CD95, CD95 ligand, FLIP, Bcl-2, Bcl-X(L), Bag-1, and caspase 3 by quantitative real-time PCR. Biological efficacy of IFN-beta treatment was checked by quantification of Mx expression (ELISA and real-time PCR). We found a significant increase in the apoptosis rate of immune cells in response to IFN-beta treatment, compared to baseline levels. While Bcl-2 levels were permanently and Bag-1 levels transiently elevated upon therapy, other apoptosis-regulatory genes revealed no alterations. Upregulation of Mx expression confirmed the activity of IFN-beta in vivo. These findings indicate that immunomodulatory IFN-beta therapy involves the induction of apoptotic cell death with the observed RNA upregulation of Bcl-2 family members rather reflecting a possible compensatory mechanism. The increased apoptosis susceptibility of peripheral immune cells may contribute to the known reduction of brain inflammatory lesions during IFN-beta treatment.

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