Contamination of pharmaceutical products and medical devices with pyrogens such as endotoxins is the most common cause of systemic inflammation and, in worst cases, of septic shock. Thus, quantification of pyrogens is crucial. The limulus amebocyte lysate (LAL)-based assays are the reference tests for in vitro endotoxin detection, in association with the in vivo rabbit pyrogen test (RPT), according to European Pharmacopoeia (EP 2.6.14), and U.S. Pharmacopoeia (USP <85>). However, several substances interfere with LAL assay, while RPT is not accurate, not quantitative, and raises ethical limits. Biological assays, as monocyte activation tests, have been developed and included in European Pharmacopoeia (EP 7.0; 04/2010:20630) guidelines as an alternative to RPT and proved relevant to the febrile reaction in vivo. Because this reaction is carried out by endogenous mediators under the transcriptional control of nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB), we sought to determine whether a NF-kappaB reporter-gene assay, based on MonoMac-6 (MM6) cells, could reconcile the basic mechanism of innate immune response with the relevance of monocytoid cell lines to the organism reaction to endotoxins. This article describes both optimization and characterization of the reporter cells-based assay, which overall proved the linearity, accuracy, and precision of the test, and demonstrated the sensitivity of the assay to 0.24 EU/mL endotoxin, close to the pyrogenic threshold in humans. Moreover, the assay was experimentally compared to the LAL test in the evaluation of selected interfering samples. The good performance of the MM6 reporter test demonstrates the suitability of this assay to evaluate interfering or false-positive samples.
Keywords: CD14; MonoMac-6; NF-kappaB; endotoxin; lipopolysaccharide; pyrogens.