Predominant pathogenic role of tumor necrosis factor in experimental colitis in mice



Antibodies to tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α have been recently proposed as effective treatment for patients with Crohn's disease. Here, we analyze the functional role of TNF-α in a mouse model of chronic intestinal inflammation induced by the hapten reagent 2,4,6,-trinitrobenzene sulfonic acid (TNBS) that mimics some characteristics of Crohn's disease in humans. Macrophage-enriched lamina propria (LP) mononuclear cells from mice with TNBS-induced colitis produced 10–30-fold higher levels of TNF-α mRNA and protein than cells from control mice. When mice with chronic colitis were treated by intraperitoneal injection of antibodies to TNF-α, an improvement of both the clinical and histopathologic signs of disease was found. Isolated macrophage-enriched LP cells from anti-TNF-α-treated mice produced strikingly less pro-inflammatory cytokines such as interleukin (IL)-1 and IL-6 in cell culture. The predominant role of TNF-α in the mouse TNBS-induced colitis model was further underlined by the finding that striking colonic inflammation and lethal pancolitis was induced in TNF-α-transgenic mice upon TNBS treatment. Conversely, no significant TNBS-induced colitis could be induced in mice in which the TNF-α gene had been inactivated by homologous recombination. Complementation of TNF-α function in TNF−/− mice by the expression of a mouse TNF-α transgene was sufficient to reverse this effect. Taken together, the data provide direct evidence for a predominant role of TNF-α in a mouse model of chronic intestinal inflammation and encourage further clinical trials with antibodies to TNF-α for the treatment of patients with Crohn's disease.