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Neutralization of the proinflammatory cytokine TNF-alpha by mAbs or soluble receptors represents an effective treatment for chronic inflammatory disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, or Crohn's disease. In this study, we describe a novel active immunization approach against TNF-alpha, which results in the induction of high titers of therapeutically active autoantibodies. Immunization of mice with virus-like particles of the bacteriophage Qbeta covalently linked to either the entire soluble TNF-alpha protein (Qbeta-C-TNF(1-156)) or a 20-aa peptide derived from its N terminus (Qbeta-C-TNF(4-23)) yielded specific Abs, which protected from clinical signs of inflammation in a murine model of rheumatoid arthritis. Whereas mice immunized with Qbeta-C-TNF(1-156) showed increased susceptibility to Listeria monocytogenes infection and enhanced reactivation of latent Mycobacterium tuberculosis, mice immunized with Qbeta-C-TNF(4-23) were not immunocompromised with respect to infection with these pathogens. This difference was attributed to recognition of both transmembrane and soluble TNF-alpha by Abs elicited by Qbeta-C-TNF(1-156), and a selective recognition of only soluble TNF-alpha by Abs raised by Qbeta-C-TNF(4-23). Thus, by specifically targeting soluble TNF-alpha, Qbeta-C-TNF(4-23) immunization has the potential to become an effective and safe therapy against inflammatory disorders, which might overcome the risk of opportunistic infections associated with the currently available TNF-alpha antagonists.

Original publication




Journal article


J Immunol

Publication Date





7450 - 7457


Allolevivirus, Amino Acid Sequence, Animals, Arthritis, Experimental, Arthritis, Rheumatoid, Female, Listeriosis, Male, Mice, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Mice, Inbred DBA, Mice, Knockout, Molecular Sequence Data, Particle Size, Peptide Fragments, Protein Engineering, Severity of Illness Index, Solubility, Tuberculosis, Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha, Vaccines, Conjugate, Vaccines, Virosome