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In this study, we investigated the effects of the intracellular metal chelator desferrioxamine (DFO) and the extracellular metal chelator diethylenetriamine penta-acetic acid (DTPA), which were previously shown to have strong anticytomegalovirus potencies, on their ability to elicit immunomodulatory effects in vitro[fcn,3]. The results showed that nontoxic and in vivo attainable concentrations of both DFO and DTPA inhibited mitogen- and allogen-induced proliferation of peripheral blood lymphocytes. The immunomodulatory effects of DFO/DTPA seem to be due to the impaired expression of interleukin-2 receptor and the reduced secretion of interleukin-2. However, metal chelators were more effective than cyclosporine or tacrolimus (FK506) in our in vitro experiments. Moreover, cytotoxicity mediated by lymphokine-activated killer cells and natural killer cells and the expression of HLA and adhesion molecules on cytokine-stimulated endothelial cells were differentially impaired by DFO/DTPA. These results warrant further study of the immunological effects of metal chelators in vivo.