Anti-inflammatory effects of infliximab in mice are independent of tumour necrosis factor α neutralization

Clin Exp Immunol. 2017 Feb;187(2):225-233. doi: 10.1111/cei.12872. Epub 2016 Nov 23.


Infliximab (IFX) has been used repeatedly in mouse preclinical models with associated claims that anti-inflammatory effects are due to inhibition of mouse tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-α. However, the mechanism of action in mice remains unclear. In this study, the binding specificity of IFX for mouse TNF-α was investigated ex vivo using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), flow cytometry and Western blot. Infliximab (IFX) did not bind directly to soluble or membrane-bound mouse TNF-α nor did it have any effect on TNF-α-induced nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB) stimulation in mouse fibroblasts. The efficacy of IFX treatment was then investigated in vivo using a TNF-α-independent Trichuris muris-induced infection model of chronic colitis. Infection provoked severe transmural colonic inflammation by day 35 post-infection. Colonic pathology, macrophage phenotype and cell death were determined. As predicted from the in-vitro data, in-vivo treatment of T. muris-infected mice with IFX had no effect on clinical outcome, nor did it affect macrophage cell phenotype or number. IFX enhanced apoptosis of colonic immune cells significantly, likely to be driven by a direct effect of the humanized antibody itself. We have demonstrated that although IFX does not bind directly to TNF-α, observed anti-inflammatory effects in other mouse models may be through host cell apoptosis. We suggest that more careful consideration of xenogeneic responses should be made when utilizing IFX in preclinical models.

Keywords: antibody; inflammation; macrophage; mucosa.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Blocking / therapeutic use
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Colitis / drug therapy*
  • Colitis / parasitology
  • Epitopes
  • Fibroblasts / drug effects*
  • Fibroblasts / physiology
  • Humans
  • Infliximab / pharmacology
  • Infliximab / therapeutic use*
  • Macrophages / drug effects*
  • Macrophages / parasitology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred AKR
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Protein Binding
  • Trichuriasis / drug therapy*
  • Trichuris / immunology*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / genetics
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / immunology
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism*


  • Antibodies, Blocking
  • Epitopes
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Infliximab