Background. Cell-mediated immune responses can be down-regulated by induction of apoptosis of immunoreactive lymphocytes. In the present study, we have tested the feasibility of a strategy for immunosuppression by the selective induction of apoptosis in activated, interleukin (IL)-2 receptor- positive lymphocytes, using a triple IL-2-IgG-FasL fusion protein. The IL-2- IgG-FasL fusion protein combines IL-2 for the selection of activated T cells, with the extracellular domain of the FasL molecule for inducing T-cell apoptosis. These components were separated by the Fc part of IgG1 serving as a spacer as well as for half-life prolongation. Methods. The gene for the chimeric protein was created by fusing DNA sequences encoding for the three functional components: human IL-2, the Fc part of human IgG1, and the extracellular domain of murine FasL. When the fusion gene was expressed in murine J558L cells, we obtained soluble dimeric immunoglobulin-like proteins in the supernatant. After analyzing the function of the IL-2 and FasL portions individually in vitro, a delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) reaction to sheep red blood cells as model for cell-mediated immune responses was investigated to evaluate the IL-2-IgG-FasL-mediated immunosuppression in vivo. Results. In vitro, the IL-2-IgG-FasL fusion protein supported IL-2- dependent proliferation of Fas-resistant CTLL-2 cells, whereas concanavalin A-T blasts were induced to undergo apoptosis by the FasL portion. In vivo, this fusion protein potently inhibited a murine DTH. This was associated with an increased rate of apoptosis in activated lymphocytes in the spleen, even at very low doses of the fusion protein. Furthermore, a second antigen challenge 10 days after IL-2-IgG-FasL treatment still failed to elicit a DTH response. Conclusion. The abrogation of a standard T cell-dependent immune response in vivo demonstrates that IL-2-IgG-FasL can be successfully exploited to trigger the death of deleterious T cells, presenting a potentially useful strategy in the management of autoimmune diseases and allotransplant rejections.
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