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More MS news articles for March 2004

Inhibiting cytokines of the interleukin-12 family: recent advances and novel challenges

J Pharm Pharmacol. 2004 Feb;56(2):145-60
Vandenbroeck K, Alloza I, Gadina M, Matthys P.
Cytokine Biology and Genetics Programme, Biomolecular Sciences Research Group, School of Pharmacy, Queen's University of Belfast, 97 Lisburn Road, Belfast BT9 7BL, UK

Interleukin-12 (IL-12) and the more recently discovered IL-23 and IL-27 constitute a unique family of structurally related, heterodimeric cytokines that regulate cell-mediated immune responses and T helper 1 (Th1)-type inflammatory reactions.

Not surprisingly, the potentiality of treating conditions such as multiple sclerosis (MS) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) through pharmacological interference with IL-12 pathways has received widespread attention.

In this review we have examined over 50 substances with reported IL-12 inhibitory effects.

We demonstrate that a majority of these belong to a limited number of major functional classes, each of which targets discrete events in the IL-12 biological pathway.

Thus, most IL-12 inhibitory substances appear to work either through inhibition of transcription factor NF-kappa B activation, up-regulation of intracellular cAMP, blockage of posttranslational processing or interference with signal transduction pathways.

In addition, cyclophilin-binding drugs, and generic inhibitors of nuclear histone deacetylases, and of ion channels, pumps and antiporters are emerging as potential leads to novel targets for interference with IL-12 production.

Many inhibitors of NF-kappa B and of IL-12 signal transduction have been proven effective in limiting or preventing disease in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) models of MS.

The sharing of the p40 subunit, the IL-12R beta 1 and components of the signal transduction pathways between IL-12 and IL-23 raises the question as to whether the beneficial effects of various drugs previously ascribed to inhibition of IL-12 may, in fact, have been due to concurrent blockage of both cytokines, or of IL-23, rather than IL-12.

Moreover, the homodimeric beta(2)-form of IL-12, though originally considered to display only antagonistic effects, is now emerging as a pronounced agonist in a variety of inflammatory processes.

Reassessment of IL-12 inhibitory compounds is therefore needed to scrutinize their effects on IL-12 alpha beta, beta(2) and IL-23 formation.

This is likely to open exciting perspectives to the identification of drugs that target these cytokines either indiscriminately or selectively.

The functional diversity of presently available inhibitors should facilitate an unprecedented flexibility in designing future trials for the treatment of IL-12- and IL-23-mediated disorders.