Intermittent interferonemia and interferon responses in multiple sclerosis

Paul J. Hertzog, Anne Wright, George Harris, Anthony W. Linnane, Ian R. Mackay

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In view of the immunoregulatory and antiviral properties of the interferons (IFNs), the production of and response to these cytokines in vivo and in vitro were assessed in 42 patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), a disease with features of autoimmunity and a viral infection. Serum IFN, determined by bioassay of antiviral activity at 10 intervals over 18 months, was detectable at levels ranging from 16 to 250 IU/ml, at least once and up to five times in 37 of the 42 patients. Of 420 samples tested, 88 (21%) were positive. None of the 71 serum samples from 37 healthy subjects contained detectable IFN activity. Neutralization of antiviral activity by antibodies showed that the serum IFN type was IFN-α in 82 samples, IFN-γ only in 2, and both IFN-α and IFN-γ were present in 4. At the initial time point. the activity of 2′-5′ oligoadenylate synthetase (OAS), an IFN-induced enzyme, was elevated in peripheral blood leucocytes (PBL) from 13 patients, but not in 7 patients seropositive for IFN, indicating that in some patients there was a failure of PBL to respond to endogenous IFN. In most patients the capacity of PBL in vitro to produce IFNs- α β or -γ after induction by virus or mitogens, respectively, was likewise reduced. These various abnormalities in IFN responses could not be correlated with clinical assessments of disease activity but may reflect subclinical attacks. The abnormalities described, in particular the intermittent interferonemia in MS, are more striking than in other diseases previously reported, indicating an unusual component to the stimulus for IFN production (viral or other) or the response to it. The effects of endogenous IFN production may have implications for the scheduling of therapy with IFN in MS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18-32
Number of pages15
JournalClinical Immunology and Immunopathology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1991

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