Evidence for IFN-γ as a mediator of the lethality of endotoxin and tumor necrosis factor-α

G. M. Doherty, J. R. Lange, H. N. Langstein, H. R. Alexander, C. M. Buresh, J. A. Norton

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264 Scopus citations


Current evidence indicates that endogenously produced peptide cytokines, most notably TNF-α and IL-1, mediate the lethality of experimental endotoxemia. Because circulating serum levels of IFN-γ can be detected soon after TNF-α and IL-1 in response to endotoxin, we investigated the role of IFN-γ in endotoxin and TNF-α lethality. Specific neutralizing antibodies to murine TNF-α (anti-TNF-α Ab) or murine IFNγ (anti-IFN-γ Ab) produced in our laboratory protected mice against the lethality of Escherichia coli endotoxin (LPS) administered 6 h later. Serum IFN-γ levels 2 h after i.v. LPS were lower in mice treated with anti-TNF-α Ab compared to mice that received nonimmune IgG (median <2.5 vs 3.0 U/ml, P2 < 0.05). In contrast, serum TNF-α levels 1 h after i.v. LPS peaked more than fourfold higher in mice treated with anti-IFN-γ Ab compared to controls (median > 6400 vs 1405 pg/ml, p2 < 0.05). Doses of TNF-α (300 μg/kg) and IFN-γ (50,000 U) which were well tolerated when given individually were synergistically lethal in combination (0% lethality vs 100% lethality, P2 < 0.001), and were associated with higher serum levels of IL-6 than with either cytokine alone. Anti-IFN-γ Ab provided complete protection against exogenous human rTNF-α at the LD100 dose (1400 μg/kg, p2 < 0.001), and in fact prevented lethality at doses four- to fivefold greater than the LD100 human rTNF-α (up to 6000 μg/kg). We conclude that IFN-γ is synergistic with TNF-α, is essential for the lethality of LPS and TNF-α, and may have modulating effects on the negative control of serum levels of TNF-α after LPS in mice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1666-1670
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jan 1 1992
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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