Xanthine derivatives: comparison between suppression of tumour necrosis factor-alpha production and inhibition of cAMP phosphodiesterase activity

Immunology. 1993 Apr;78(4):520-5.


Several in vitro and in vivo studies have demonstrated suppression of tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) synthesis by pentoxifylline. In the present study we compared the effect of pentoxifylline with that of five other xanthine derivatives. We addressed two questions. First, what is the relative potency of those chemically related compounds in suppressing the lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced production of TNF-alpha in human mononuclear cells? Second, does suppression of TNF-alpha production by these xanthine derivatives correlate with their capacity to inhibit 3',5'-cAMP phosphodiesterase (PDE) activity? The experimental drug A 80 2715 [1-(5-hydroxy-5-methylhexyl)-3-methyl-7-propylxanthine] was identified as the most potent agent with an IC50 (concentration exerting 50% suppression of LPS-induced TNF-alpha production) of 41 microM (mean of 13 individuals). The IC50 values of the other substances ranged between 106 microM for HWA 138 and 419 microM for theophylline. The LPS-induced interleukin-1 beta (IL-1 beta) production was not influenced by all substances tested at comparable concentrations. Inhibition of PDE activity was determined in a cell-free system using PDE isolated from bovine heart. All xanthine derivatives dose-dependently inhibited PDE activity. Furthermore, with the exception of theophylline, there was a high degree of correlation between the potency to suppress TNF-alpha production in the cell culture system and the potency to inhibit PDE activity in the cell-free enzymatic assay. This argues for a crucial role of PDE inhibition in the suppression of TNF-alpha synthesis by xanthine derivatives.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 3',5'-Cyclic-AMP Phosphodiesterases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Humans
  • Pentoxifylline / analogs & derivatives
  • Pentoxifylline / pharmacology
  • Theophylline / pharmacology
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / biosynthesis
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / drug effects*
  • Xanthines / pharmacology*


  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Xanthines
  • 1-(5-hydroxy-5-methylhexyl)-3-methylxanthine
  • A 802715
  • torbafylline
  • Theophylline
  • 3',5'-Cyclic-AMP Phosphodiesterases
  • lisofylline
  • Pentoxifylline