Immune response modulation by pentoxifylline in vitro

Transplantation. 1993 Jul;56(1):196-201. doi: 10.1097/00007890-199307000-00036.


Pentoxifylline (PTX) has recently been shown to modulate TNF-alpha production and to reduce the incidence and severity of all major complications after BMT, including mucositis, veno-occlusive disease, renal insufficiency, hypertension, and graft-versus-host disease. To analyze in detail the effect of PTX on immune complications after BMT, we investigated the immunomodulatory effect of PTX on immune responses in vitro. The continuous presence of PTX significantly reduced the proliferative response of PBMC to PHA stimulation and to alloantigens in a dose-dependent manner. Starting at concentrations of 100 micrograms/ml, PTX was able to inhibit and, at 1000 micrograms/ml, completely block mitogen-induced proliferation. Maximal inhibition of more than 90% (91 +/- 4%) was also observed at PTX concentrations of 1000 micrograms/ml in the mixed lymphocyte culture (MLR) and by addition on day 0. However, lower but still significant suppression (13 +/- 7%) was achieved at concentrations of 10 micrograms/ml PTX. The inhibitory capacity of PTX was increased by mAbs against TNF-alpha (34 +/- 5% additional suppression at 100 micrograms/ml PTX) and not reversed by the addition of rTNF-alpha. The effect of PTX on the generation of CTLs in vitro was studied in the cell-mediated lymphotoxicity assay. PTX (100 micrograms/ml) significantly inhibited (P = 0.0178) the in vitro generation of CTLs when PTX was added to the culture on day 0. PTX also showed profound modulatory properties in the NK assay, with a reduction of 23 +/- 3% in specific lysis at 10 micrograms/ml PTX and maximal reductions of 88 +/- 3% at 1000 micrograms/ml PTX. Immunomodulatory properties of PTX were not only associated with blockage of TNF-alpha, as shown by decreased mRNA expression and TNF-alpha values in the culture supernatants, but also with an impaired production of other cytokines and secondary messages such as IFN-gamma and neopterin. PTX treatment, however, did not affect IFN-alpha or IL-1 beta production, and IL-6 release was even increased. PTX, therefore, has profound immunomodulatory properties in vitro, which are associated with selective inhibition of cytokine release and can be enhanced by the addition of mAbs against TNF-alpha, but not reversed by the addition of rTNF-alpha.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biopterin / analogs & derivatives
  • Biopterin / biosynthesis
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis*
  • Cytotoxicity, Immunologic / drug effects
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / pharmacology*
  • Interferon-alpha / biosynthesis
  • Interferon-gamma / biosynthesis
  • Interleukin-1 / biosynthesis
  • Interleukin-2 / biosynthesis
  • Interleukin-6 / biosynthesis
  • Killer Cells, Natural / drug effects
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology
  • Lymphocyte Activation / drug effects*
  • Lymphocytes / drug effects*
  • Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Neopterin
  • Pentoxifylline / pharmacology*
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / biosynthesis


  • Cytokines
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Interferon-alpha
  • Interleukin-1
  • Interleukin-2
  • Interleukin-6
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Biopterin
  • Neopterin
  • Interferon-gamma
  • Pentoxifylline