Contrasting effects of alpha, beta, and gamma interferons on nonspecific suppressor function in multiple sclerosis

Ann Neurol. 1992 Jan;31(1):103-6. doi: 10.1002/ana.410310119.


Interferons are biological molecules with antiviral, antiproliferative, and immunomodulatory actions. Interferon alpha (IFN-alpha) and -beta are potentially useful in the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS). IFN-gamma, in contrast, increases the frequency of exacerbations of MS. In this study, we compared the effect of recombinant human IFN-alpha, -beta, and -gamma on suppressor function in patients with MS. Nonspecific suppressor cell function, measured in a concanavalin A suppressor assay, was significantly decreased in 16 patients with progressive MS (mean percent suppression +/- SEM, 14.4 +/- 5.5 in patients with MS, 33.5 +/- 4.8 in 16 normal subjects; p less than 0.001). Recombinant human IFN-beta augmented suppressor function in MS to 45.4 +/- 5.1% (p less than 0.001) and in control subjects to 56.8 +/- 3.8% (p less than 0.001). Similarly, recombinant human IFN-alpha improved suppression in MS to 43.0 +/- 5.6% (p less than 0.001) and in control subjects to 51.1 +/- 5.9% (p less than 0.001). In contrast, recombinant human IFN-gamma had no effect on suppressor function in patients with MS and in control subjects. This study shows that IFN-alpha and -beta augment deficient suppressor function in MS, whereas IFN-gamma has no effect on suppressor function in the progressive phase of the disease.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Concanavalin A / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance / drug effects
  • Immunologic Factors / pharmacology*
  • Interferon-gamma / adverse effects
  • Interferons / pharmacology*
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis / immunology*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / pathology
  • Recombinant Proteins / pharmacology
  • Stimulation, Chemical
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / drug effects*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology


  • Immunologic Factors
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Concanavalin A
  • Interferon-gamma
  • Interferons