In vitro studies have shown that cytokines are involved in the regulation of the immune response, but their role in vivo is less well defined. Specific cytokine antagonists enable the identification of particular cytokines involved in the response and offer a means for modifying it. Systemic administration of a soluble, extracellular portion of the receptor for interleukin-1 (sIL-1R) had profound inhibitory effects on the development of in vivo alloreactivity. Survival of heterotopic heart allografts was prolonged from 12 days in controls to 17 days in mice treated with sIL-1R. Lymph node hyperplasia in response to a localized injection of allogeneic cells was completely blocked by sIL-1R treatment. The inhibition was overcome by simultaneous administration of interleukin-1 (IL-1); thus, sIL-1R acts by neutralizing IL-1. These results implicate IL-1 as a regulator of allograft rejection and demonstrate the in vivo biological efficacy of a soluble cytokine receptor.

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