The ability to modulate immune responses is a major aim of many vaccine and immunotherapeutic development programs. Bromelain, a mixture of cysteine proteases, modulates immunological responses and has been proposed to be of clinical use. However, the identity of the immune cells affected by bromelain and the specific cellular functions that are altered remain poorly understood. To address these shortcomings in our knowledge, we have used both in vitro and in vivo immunological assays to study the effects of bromelain. We found that bromelain enhanced T cell receptor (TCR) and anti-CD28-mediated T cell proliferation in splenocyte cultures by increasing the costimulatory activity of accessory cell populations. However, despite increased T cell proliferation, bromelain concomitantly decreased IL-2 production in splenocyte cultures. Additionally, bromelain did not affect TCR and CD28-induced proliferation of highly purified CD4+ T cells, but did inhibit IL-2 production by these cells. In vivo, bromelain enhanced T-cell-dependent, Ag-specific, B cell antibody responses. Again, bromelain induced a concomitant decrease in splenic IL-2 mRNA accumulation in immunized mice. Together, these data show that bromelain can simultaneously enhance and inhibit T cell responses in vitro and in vivo via a stimulatory action on accessory cells and a direct inhibitory action on T cells. This work provides important insights into the immunomodulatory activity of bromelain and has important implications for the use of exogenous cysteine proteases as vaccine adjuvants or immunomodulatory agents.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.