Anti-interleukin-6 therapy through application of a monogenic protein inhibitor via gene delivery

Sci Rep. 2015 Oct 1;5:14685. doi: 10.1038/srep14685.


Anti-cytokine therapies have substantially improved the treatment of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Cytokine-targeting drugs are usually biologics such as antibodies or other engineered proteins. Production of biologics, however, is complex and intricate and therefore expensive which might limit therapeutic application. To overcome this limitation we developed a strategy that involves the design of an optimized, monogenic cytokine inhibitor and the protein producing capacity of the host. Here, we engineered and characterized a receptor fusion protein, mIL-6-RFP-Fc, for the inhibition of interleukin-6 (IL-6), a well-established target in anti-cytokine therapy. Upon application in mice mIL-6-RFP-Fc inhibited IL-6-induced activation of the transcription factor STAT3 and ERK1/2 kinases in liver and kidney. mIL-6-RFP-Fc is encoded by a single gene and therefore most relevant for gene transfer approaches. Gene transfer through hydrodynamic plasmid delivery in mice resulted in hepatic production and secretion of mIL-6-RFP-Fc into the blood in considerable amounts, blocked hepatic acute phase protein synthesis and improved kidney function in an ischemia and reperfusion injury model. Our study establishes receptor fusion proteins as promising agents in anti-cytokine therapies through gene therapeutic approaches for future targeted and cost-effective treatments. The strategy described here is applicable for many cytokines involved in inflammatory and other diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Cytokine Receptor gp130 / genetics
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical
  • Gene Expression
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Hep G2 Cells
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin Fc Fragments / genetics
  • Interleukin-6 / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Interleukin-6 / immunology
  • Kidney / blood supply
  • Kidney / drug effects
  • Kidney / pathology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Plasmids / genetics
  • Protein Interaction Domains and Motifs
  • Receptors, Interleukin-6 / genetics
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / genetics
  • Reperfusion Injury / drug therapy*
  • Transfection


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Immunoglobulin Fc Fragments
  • Interleukin-6
  • Receptors, Interleukin-6
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Cytokine Receptor gp130