Ursodeoxycholic acid was recently recognized as an effective agent in the treatment of primary biliary cirrhosis. Experimental evidence supporting the usefulness of ursodeoxycholic acid as a potentially beneficial therapeutic agent for primary biliary cirrhosis has been reported from the biochemical and physiological aspects.
In this study, we investigated the direct effects of ursodeoxycholic acid on immunoglobulin and cytokine production in vitro using plaque-forming cell assay and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. It was demonstrated that ursodeoxycholic acid suppressed the production of IgM, IgG and IgA induced by Staphylococcus aureus Cowan I in peripheral blood mononuclear cells derived from healthy subjects and patients with primary biliary cirrhosis and also in human B lymphoma cell lines. Furthermore, ursodeoxycholic acid suppressed interleukin-2 and interleukin-4 production induced by concanavalin A and interferon-γ production induced by polyinosinic-polycytidylic acid, but it did not affect interleukin-1 and interleukin-6 production induced by lipopolysaccharide in peripheral blood mononuclear cells. In addition, ursodeoxycholic acid suppressed the concanavalin A-induced thymocyte proliferation mediated by interleukin-1. Cytotoxicity against lymphocytes was not observed at the concentrations of ursodeoxycholic acid used. These results suggest that the beneficial effect of ursodeoxycholic acid in primary biliary cirrhosis is mediated in part by immunosuppression. (HEPATOLOGY 1992;16:358–364.)