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Modulation of the cytokine network may be of importance for the beneficial effects of therapy with IVIG seen in a wide range of immune-mediated disorders. In the present study we investigate the effect of IVIG administration in vivo on the IL-1 system in 12 patients with primary hypogammaglobulinaemia. Before IVIG infusion these patients had significantly elevated levels of IL-1α and IL-1β both in plasma and in supernatants from peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) compared with healthy controls. After one bolus infusion with IVIG (0·4 g/kg) we found a significant change in the profile of the components of the IL-1 system: a marked increase in levels of IL-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1Ra) and neutralizing antibodies against IL-1α, a moderate decrease in levels of IL-1α, IL-1β and soluble (s) IL-1 receptor type I and a significant increase in sIL-1 receptor type II levels. These changes were found both in plasma and in PBMC isolated after IVIG administration. Furthermore, pooled serum obtained after IVIG infusion suppressed lipopolysaccharide- and staphylococcal enterotoxin B-stimulated, but not phorbol myristate acetate-stimulated, release of IL-1α and IL-1β from PBMC isolated from healthy controls. Finally, these changes in circulating levels of various IL-1 modulators after IVIG infusion appeared to cause a significantly impaired ability of IL-1 to stimulate PBMC for tumour necrosis factor-alpha release. Our findings suggest that IVIG administration may not only down-regulate the activity in the IL-1 system, but also hamper IL-1 stimulation of PBMC.