Inosine pranobex enhances human NK cell cytotoxicity by inducing metabolic activation and NKG2D ligand expression

Eur J Immunol. 2020 Jan;50(1):130-137. doi: 10.1002/eji.201847948. Epub 2019 Sep 12.


Inosine pranobex (IP) is a synthetic immunomodulating compound, indicated for use in the treatment of human papillomavirus-associated warts and subacute sclerosing panencephalitis. Previous studies demonstrate that the immunomodulatory activity of IP is characterized by enhanced lymphocyte proliferation, cytokine production, and NK cell cytotoxicity. The activation of NKG2D signaling on NK cells, CD8+ T cells, and γδ T cells also produces these outcomes. We hypothesized that IP alters cellular immunity through the induction of NKG2D ligand expression on target cells, thereby enhancing immune cell activation through the NKG2D receptor. We tested this hypothesis and show that exposure of target cells to IP leads to increased expression of multiple NKG2D ligands. Using both targeted metabolic interventions and unbiased metabolomic studies, we found that IP causes an increase in intracellular concentration of purine nucleotides and tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle intermediates and NKG2D ligand induction. The degree of NKG2D ligand induction was functionally significant, leading to increased NKG2D-dependent target cell immunogenicity. These findings demonstrate that the immunomodulatory properties of IP are due to metabolic activation with NKG2D ligand induction.

Keywords: MICA; NKG2D; immunomodulation; innate immunity; inosine pranobex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activation, Metabolic / drug effects
  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / pharmacology*
  • Cytotoxicity, Immunologic / drug effects*
  • Cytotoxicity, Immunologic / immunology
  • Humans
  • Inosine Pranobex / pharmacology*
  • Killer Cells, Natural / drug effects*
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology
  • Killer Cells, Natural / metabolism
  • Ligands
  • NK Cell Lectin-Like Receptor Subfamily K / immunology*
  • NK Cell Lectin-Like Receptor Subfamily K / metabolism


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • KLRK1 protein, human
  • Ligands
  • NK Cell Lectin-Like Receptor Subfamily K
  • Inosine Pranobex