Objective: Blockade of CD28-B7 interactions with soluble CTLA-4Ig fusion protein (which binds and blocks both B7-1 and B7-2 costimulatory molecules on antigen-presenting cells) has been shown to ameliorate experimental autoimmune diseases such as lupus, experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, diabetes, and, in our laboratory, collagen-induced arthritis (CIA). Because prolonged inhibition of this costimulatory pathway may be required, and the adenovirus-mediated gene-transfer technology is very efficient in achieving sustained expression of proteins in vivo, we examined the effects of adenovirally delivered CTLA-4Ig in established murine CIA.
Method: Replication-deficient recombinant adenoviruses encoding a chimeric CTLA-4Ig fusion protein, or beta-galactosidase as control, were injected intravenously into male DBA/1 mice once at arthritis onset. Disease activity was monitored by the assessment of clinical score, paw thickness, and type II collagen (CII)-specific cellular and humoral responses for 3 weeks. Groups of mice were also serially injected with a CTLA-4Ig fusion protein and an anti-cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated antigen 4 (CTLA-4) monoclonal antibody (mAb), and disease activity was compared with that in the adenovirally transfused groups.
Results: Both the adenovirally delivered and the recombinant CTLA-4Ig fusion protein suppressed established CIA, whereas anti-CTLA-4 mAb and the control beta-galactosidase adenovirus did not significantly affect the disease course. CII-specific lymphocyte proliferation, interferon-gamma production, and anti-CII antibody levels, both IgG1 and IgG2a, were significantly reduced by CTLA-4Ig treatment.
Conclusion: Blockade of the B7-CD28 costimulatory pathway by adenovirus-mediated CTLA-4Ig gene transfer is as effective as the recombinant fusion protein in treating established CIA, without the need for repeated administrations. Significant reduction in pathogenic cellular and humoral responses is achieved even after the onset of arthritis, thus suggesting the valuable therapeutic potential of this gene-transfer method in human rheumatoid arthritis.