The highly specific cytotoxic action of ribosome-inactivating protein (RIP) containing immunotoxins (ITs) makes IT therapy a promising approach to eliminating residual malignant cells. We investigated the cytotoxicity of the IT CD22-recombinant ricin A to the B-cell line Ramos in vitro and in vivo. Cytotoxicity of CD22-recombinant ricin A in vitro was very high as expressed by the very low 50% inhibition dose (ID50) of 3.5 x 10(-11) M. Cytotoxicity was increased 7 times in the presence of the cytotoxicity enhancer NH4Cl. The ultimate kill of Ramos cells by CD22-recombinant ricin A was high (2.7-log kill) and was increased strongly in the presence of NH4Cl (4.2-log kill). Anti-tumor activity in vivo was investigated by i.v. treatment of solid s.c. Ramos xenografts in nude BALB/c mice. A single dose did not inhibit tumor growth. Treatment on 5 consecutive days resulted in evident tumor reduction. In one mouse, tumor could no longer be detected on the 6th day after starting treatment. However, after 8 days tumor volumes increased again. Antitumor activity was more pronounced in a disseminated tumor model in SCID mice. IT treatment (i.v.) 7 days after i.v. inoculation with Ramos cells resulted in cure of all mice. Non-specific toxicity was low. Alanine aminotransferase (ALAT) levels in serum were elevated temporarily. Serum values of gamma-glutamyl transferase (gamma-GT), bilirubin and creatinin did not change. Body weight was also transiently reduced. The LD50 in SCID mice after i.v. administration was high (0.626 mg IT per mouse). The clearance rate in SCID mice, as determined by ELISA, was biphasic.