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Concept: Cytokine


Background Dupilumab, a human monoclonal antibody against interleukin-4 receptor alpha, inhibits signaling of interleukin-4 and interleukin-13, type 2 cytokines that may be important drivers of atopic or allergic diseases such as atopic dermatitis. Methods In two randomized, placebo-controlled, phase 3 trials of identical design (SOLO 1 and SOLO 2), we enrolled adults with moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis whose disease was inadequately controlled by topical treatment. Patients were randomly assigned in a 1:1:1 ratio to receive, for 16 weeks, subcutaneous dupilumab (300 mg) or placebo weekly or the same dose of dupilumab every other week alternating with placebo. The primary outcome was the proportion of patients who had both a score of 0 or 1 (clear or almost clear) on the Investigator’s Global Assessment and a reduction of 2 points or more in that score from baseline at week 16. Results We enrolled 671 patients in SOLO 1 and 708 in SOLO 2. In SOLO 1, the primary outcome occurred in 85 patients (38%) who received dupilumab every other week and in 83 (37%) who received dupilumab weekly, as compared with 23 (10%) who received placebo (P<0.001 for both comparisons with placebo). The results were similar in SOLO 2, with the primary outcome occurring in 84 patients (36%) who received dupilumab every other week and in 87 (36%) who received dupilumab weekly, as compared with 20 (8%) who received placebo (P<0.001 for both comparisons). In addition, in the two trials, an improvement from baseline to week 16 of at least 75% on the Eczema Area and Severity Index was reported in significantly more patients who received each regimen of dupilumab than in patients who received placebo (P<0.001 for all comparisons). Dupilumab was also associated with improvement in other clinical end points, including reduction in pruritus and symptoms of anxiety or depression and improvement in quality of life. Injection-site reactions and conjunctivitis were more frequent in the dupilumab groups than in the placebo groups. Conclusions In two phase 3 trials of identical design involving patients with atopic dermatitis, dupilumab improved the signs and symptoms of atopic dermatitis, including pruritus, symptoms of anxiety and depression, and quality of life, as compared with placebo. Trials of longer duration are needed to assess the long-term effectiveness and safety of dupilumab. (Funded by Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals; SOLO 1 number, NCT02277743 ; SOLO 2 number, NCT02277769 .).

Concepts: Clinical trial, Cytokine, Monoclonal antibodies,, Allergy, Placebo, Interleukin 4, Regeneron


Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a heterogeneous, prevalent, chronic autoimmune disease characterized by painful swollen joints and significant disabilities. Symptomatic relief can be achieved in up to 50% of patients using biological agents that inhibit tumor necrosis factor (TNF) or other mechanisms of action, but there are no universally effective therapies. Recent advances in basic and preclinical science reveal that reflex neural circuits inhibit the production of cytokines and inflammation in animal models. One well-characterized cytokine-inhibiting mechanism, termed the “inflammatory reflex,” is dependent upon vagus nerve signals that inhibit cytokine production and attenuate experimental arthritis severity in mice and rats. It previously was unknown whether directly stimulating the inflammatory reflex in humans inhibits TNF production. Here we show that an implantable vagus nerve-stimulating device in epilepsy patients inhibits peripheral blood production of TNF, IL-1β, and IL-6. Vagus nerve stimulation (up to four times daily) in RA patients significantly inhibited TNF production for up to 84 d. Moreover, RA disease severity, as measured by standardized clinical composite scores, improved significantly. Together, these results establish that vagus nerve stimulation targeting the inflammatory reflex modulates TNF production and reduces inflammation in humans. These findings suggest that it is possible to use mechanism-based neuromodulating devices in the experimental therapy of RA and possibly other autoimmune and autoinflammatory diseases.

Concepts: Inflammation, Cytokine, Interleukin 1, Rheumatoid arthritis, Vagus nerve, Autoimmune disease, Vagus nerve stimulation, Tumor necrosis factor-alpha


ABSTRACT The recent emergence of a novel human coronavirus (HCoV-EMC) in the Middle East raised considerable concerns, as it is associated with severe acute pneumonia, renal failure, and fatal outcome and thus resembles the clinical presentation of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) observed in 2002 and 2003. Like SARS-CoV, HCoV-EMC is of zoonotic origin and closely related to bat coronaviruses. The human airway epithelium (HAE) represents the entry point and primary target tissue for respiratory viruses and is highly relevant for assessing the zoonotic potential of emerging respiratory viruses, such as HCoV-EMC. Here, we show that pseudostratified HAE cultures derived from different donors are highly permissive to HCoV-EMC infection, and by using reverse transcription (RT)-PCR and RNAseq data, we experimentally determined the identity of seven HCoV-EMC subgenomic mRNAs. Although the HAE cells were readily responsive to type I and type III interferon (IFN), we observed neither a pronounced inflammatory cytokine nor any detectable IFN responses following HCoV-EMC, SARS-CoV, or HCoV-229E infection, suggesting that innate immune evasion mechanisms and putative IFN antagonists of HCoV-EMC are operational in the new host. Importantly, however, we demonstrate that both type I and type III IFN can efficiently reduce HCoV-EMC replication in HAE cultures, providing a possible treatment option in cases of suspected HCoV-EMC infection. IMPORTANCE A novel human coronavirus, HCoV-EMC, has recently been described to be associated with severe respiratory tract infection and fatalities, similar to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) observed during the 2002-2003 epidemic. Closely related coronaviruses replicate in bats, suggesting that, like SARS-CoV, HCoV-EMC is of zoonotic origin. Since the animal reservoir and circumstances of zoonotic transmission are yet elusive, it is critically important to assess potential species barriers of HCoV-EMC infection. An important first barrier against invading respiratory pathogens is the epithelium, representing the entry point and primary target tissue of respiratory viruses. We show that human bronchial epithelia are highly susceptible to HCoV-EMC infection. Furthermore, HCoV-EMC, like other coronaviruses, evades innate immune recognition, reflected by the lack of interferon and minimal inflammatory cytokine expression following infection. Importantly, type I and type III interferon treatment can efficiently reduce HCoV-EMC replication in the human airway epithelium, providing a possible avenue for treatment of emerging virus infections.

Concepts: Immune system, Cytokine, Virus, Interferon, Influenza, Severe acute respiratory syndrome, Respiratory epithelium, Coronavirus


APS1/APECED patients are defined by defects in the autoimmune regulator (AIRE) that mediates central T cell tolerance to many self-antigens. AIRE deficiency also affects B cell tolerance, but this is incompletely understood. Here we show that most APS1/APECED patients displayed B cell autoreactivity toward unique sets of approximately 100 self-proteins. Thereby, autoantibodies from 81 patients collectively detected many thousands of human proteins. The loss of B cell tolerance seemingly occurred during antibody affinity maturation, an obligatorily T cell-dependent step. Consistent with this, many APS1/APECED patients harbored extremely high-affinity, neutralizing autoantibodies, particularly against specific cytokines. Such antibodies were biologically active in vitro and in vivo, and those neutralizing type I interferons (IFNs) showed a striking inverse correlation with type I diabetes, not shown by other anti-cytokine antibodies. Thus, naturally occurring human autoantibodies may actively limit disease and be of therapeutic utility.

Concepts: Immune system, Antibody, Protein, Cytokine, Diabetes mellitus type 1, Immunology, Interferon, Somatic hypermutation


Interferon-beta (IFNB) therapy for multiple sclerosis can lead to the induction of neutralizing antibodies (NAbs) against IFNB. Various methods are used for detection and quantification of NAbs.

Concepts: Immune system, Antibody, Cytokine, Natural killer cell, Interferon, Multiple sclerosis, Interferon beta-1a, Interferon beta-1b


(-)-Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is a major polyphenol component of green tea that has antioxidant activities. Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) induces inflammatory cytokine production and impairs blood-brain barrier (BBB) integrity. We examined the effect of EGCG on LPS-induced expression of the inflammatory cytokines in human cerebral microvascular endothelial cells (hCMECs) and BBB permeability.

Concepts: Inflammation, Cytokine, Antioxidant, Tea, Catechin, Green tea, Polyphenol, Epigallocatechin gallate


Six volunteers experienced severe inflammatory response during the Phase I clinical trial of a monoclonal antibody that was designed to stimulate a regulatory T cell response. Soon after the trial began, each volunteer experienced a “cytokine storm”, a dramatic increase in cytokine concentrations. The monoclonal antibody, TGN1412, raised serum concentrations of both pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines το very hiγh values during the first day, while lymphocyte and monocyte concentrations plummeted. Because the subjects were healthy and had no prior indications of immune deficiency, this event provided an unusual opportunity to study the dynamic interactions of cytokines and other measured parameters. Here, the response histories of nine cytokines have been modeled by a set of linear ordinary differential equations. A general search procedure identifies parameters of the model, whose response fits the data well during the five-day measurement period. The eighteenth-order model reveals plausible cause-and-effect relationships among the cytokines, showing how each cytokine induces or inhibits other cytokines. It suggests that perturbations in IL2, IL8, and IL10 have the most significant inductive effect, while IFN-γ and IL12 have the greatest inhibiting effect on other cytokine concentrations. Although TNF-α is a major pro-inflammatory factor, IFN-γ and three other cytokines have faster initial and median response to TGN1412 infusion. Principal-component analysis of the data reveals three clusters of similar cytokine responses: [TNF-α, IL1, IL10], [IFN-γ, IL2, IL4, IL8, and IL12], and [IL6]. IL1, IL6, IL10, and TNF-α have the highest degree of variability in response to uncertain initial conditions, exogenous effects, and parameter estimates. This study illuminates details of a cytokine storm event, and it demonstrates the value of linear modeling for interpreting complex, coupled biological system dynamics from empirical data.

Concepts: Immune system, Inflammation, Antibody, Cytokine, Interleukin 1, Cytokine storm, Ordinary differential equation, TGN1412


Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato is the causative agent of Lyme disease (LD). Recent studies have shown that recognition of the spirochete is mediated mainly by TLR2 and NOD2. The latter receptor has been associated with the induction of the intracellular degradation process called autophagy. The present study demonstrated for the first time the induction of autophagy by exposure to B. burgdorferi and that autophagy modulates the B. burgdorferi-dependent cytokine production. Human PBMCs treated with autophagy inhibitors showed an increased IL-1β and IL-6 production in response to the exposure of the spirochete, while TNFα production was unchanged. Autophagy induction against B. burgdorferi was dependent on reactive oxygen species (ROS) since cells from patients with chronic granulomatous disease (CGD), which are defective in ROS production, also produced elevated IL-1β. Further, the enhanced production of the pro-inflammatory cytokines was because of the elevated mRNA expression in the absence of autophagy. Our results thus demonstrate the induction of autophagy, which in-turn modulates cytokine production, by B. burgdorferi for the first time.

Concepts: Bacteria, Cytokine, Reactive oxygen species, Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, Borrelia, Spirochaetes, Spirochaete


Childhood exposure to environmental particulates increases the risk of development of asthma. The underlying mechanisms may include oxidant injury to airway epithelial cells (AEC). We investigated the ability of ambient environmental particulates to contribute to sensitization via the airways, and thus to the pathogenesis of childhood asthma. To do so, we devised a novel model in which weanling BALB/c mice were exposed to both ambient particulate pollutants and ovalbumin for sensitization via the respiratory tract, followed by chronic inhalational challenge with a low mass concentration of the antigen. We also examined whether these particulates caused oxidant injury and activation of AEC in vitro. Furthermore, we assessed the potential benefit of minimizing oxidative stress to AEC through the period of sensitization and challenge, by dietary intervention. We found that characteristic features of asthmatic inflammation developed only in animals which received particulates at the same time as respiratory sensitization, and were then chronically challenged with allergen. However, these animals did not develop airway hyper-responsiveness. Ambient particulates induced epithelial injury in vitro, with evidence of oxidative stress, and production of both pro-inflammatory cytokines and Th2-promoting cytokines such as IL-33. Treatment of AEC with an anti-oxidant in vitro inhibited the pro-inflammatory cytokine response to these particulates. Ambient particulates also induced pro-inflammatory cytokine expression following administration to weanling mice. However, early-life dietary supplementation with anti-oxidants did not prevent the development of an asthmatic inflammatory response in animals that were exposed to particulates, sensitized and challenged. We conclude that injury to airway epithelium by ambient environmental particulates in early life is capable of promoting the development of an asthmatic inflammatory response in sensitized and antigen-challenged mice. These findings are likely to be relevant to the induction of childhood asthma.

Concepts: Immune system, Inflammation, Cytokine, Asthma, Antioxidant, Interleukin, Endothelium, Respiratory epithelium


Levels of inflammatory mediators in circulation are known to increase with age, but the underlying cause of this age-associated inflammation is debated. We find that, when maintained under germ-free conditions, mice do not display an age-related increase in circulating pro-inflammatory cytokine levels. A higher proportion of germ-free mice live to 600 days than their conventional counterparts, and macrophages derived from aged germ-free mice maintain anti-microbial activity. Co-housing germ-free mice with old, but not young, conventionally raised mice increases pro-inflammatory cytokines in the blood. In tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-deficient mice, which are protected from age-associated inflammation, age-related microbiota changes are not observed. Furthermore, age-associated microbiota changes can be reversed by reducing TNF using anti-TNF therapy. These data suggest that aging-associated microbiota promote inflammation and that reversing these age-related microbiota changes represents a potential strategy for reducing age-associated inflammation and the accompanying morbidity.

Concepts: Immune system, Inflammation, Bacteria, Cytokine, Interleukin 1, Atherosclerosis, Apoptosis, Tumor necrosis factor-alpha