The TNF signaling pathway is a valuable target in the therapy of autoimmune diseases, and anti-TNF drugs are successfully used to treat diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease and psoriasis. By their ability to interfere with inflammatory processes at multiple levels, these TNF blockers have become invaluable tools to inhibit the inflammation induced damage and allow recovery of the affected tissues. Unfortunately this therapy has some drawbacks, including increased risk of infection and malignancy, and remarkably, the onset of new auto-immune diseases. Some of these effects are caused by the unwanted abrogation of beneficial TNF signaling. More specific targeting of the pathological TNF-induced signaling might lead to broader applicability and improved safety. Specificity might be increased by inhibiting the soluble TNF/TNFR1 axis while leaving the often beneficial transmembrane TNF/TNFR2 signaling untouched. This approach looks promising because it inhibits the pathological effects of TNF and reduces the side effects, and it opens the way for the treatment of other diseases in which TNFR2 inhibition is detrimental. In this review we give an overview of in vivo mouse studies of TNF mediated pathologies demonstrating that the blockade or genetic deletion of sTNF or TNFR1 is preferable over total TNF blockade.
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