Identification of anti-inflammatory drugs according to their capacity to suppress type-1 and type-2 T cell profiles

Clin Exp Allergy. 2004 Dec;34(12):1868-75. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2222.2004.02124.x.


Background: Down-regulation or modulation of T cell activity by immunosuppressive drugs is an effective treatment in diseases where exaggerated T cell responses play a role. A primary effect of the anti-inflammatory drugs (AIDs) is inhibition of the synthesis of growth factors, such as IL-2, thereby down-regulating T cell proliferation. However, it is still largely unknown to what extent these AIDs are able to down-regulate specifically type-1 or type-2 T cell cytokine production, and whether they can down-modulate chemokine receptor expression, thereby preventing migration of T cells to the site of inflammation.

Objective: We investigated the suppressive effect of dermatologically used AID (cyclosporin A (CsA), lactoferrin (LF), 1 alpha, 25-dihydroxyvitamin D(3) (VD(3)), hydrocortisone (HC), di-methyl-fumarate (DMF), diclofenac (DF)) on both type-1 and type-2 T cells. Since allergic contact dermatitis is a skin disorder in which an exaggerated T cell response of both types of T cell subsets can be observed, we used this disorder as a model to study the capacity of AID to suppress type-1 or type-2 T cell responses.

Methods: Peripheral blood mononuclear cells of nickel allergic patients were cultured in the presence of allergen and increasing concentrations of AID. Proliferation was determined by measuring (3)H thymidine incorporation; chemokine receptor (CCR10, CCR4, CXCR3) expression was studied by flow cytometric analysis and IFN-gamma or IL-5 cytokine production was measured by ELISA.

Results: Three major patterns can be distinguished regarding the effect of AID on T cell responses. The first group, including CsA and LF, inhibited non-selectively T cell proliferation, chemokine receptor expression and cytokine production, with CsA as the most potent drug tested. A second group of AID, which included VD(3), HC and DMF, suppressed mainly type-1 T cell responses, as revealed by strong interference with IFN-gamma production and CXCR3 expression, and limited effects on either or both IL-5 and CCR4 expression. The third pattern was displayed by DF, which down-regulated IL-5 production and CCR4 expression, whereas IFN-gamma and CXCR3 were unaltered.

Conclusions: Using a contact allergy model, we have demonstrated that various AIDs show distinct pharmacological profiles in that either type-1 or type-2 or both T cell responses are suppressed. These results should contribute to a more rational selection of AID in treating inflammatory skin diseases mediated by either or both of these T cell subsets.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cholecalciferol / therapeutic use
  • Cyclosporine / therapeutic use
  • Dermatitis, Allergic Contact / drug therapy*
  • Dermatitis, Allergic Contact / immunology*
  • Diclofenac / therapeutic use
  • Dimethyl Fumarate
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Fumarates / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / therapeutic use
  • Interleukin-12 / immunology
  • Interleukin-4 / immunology
  • Interleukin-7 / immunology
  • Lactoferrin / therapeutic use
  • Lymphocyte Activation / drug effects
  • Nickel / adverse effects
  • Patch Tests
  • Th1 Cells / immunology*
  • Th2 Cells / immunology*


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Fumarates
  • Interleukin-7
  • Diclofenac
  • Interleukin-12
  • Cholecalciferol
  • Interleukin-4
  • Nickel
  • Cyclosporine
  • Lactoferrin
  • Dimethyl Fumarate
  • Hydrocortisone