MRL/Mp-Ipr/Ipr (MRL/Ipr) mice spontaneously develop a systemic autoimmune disease, characterized by vasculitis, lymphadenopathy, glomerulortephritis, and autoantibody formation, with target organ inflammatory lesions composed largely of CD4+ (helper) T cells. Previous reports have demonstrated that anti-CD4 monoclonal antibody (mAb) treatment of MRL/Ipr mice from 1 to 5 months of age resulted in a dramatic reduction in both the frequency and the severity of autoimmune disease. In order to investigate the effects of early, short-course and late, short-course anti-CD4 mAb therapy on the autoimmune disease in MRL/Ipr mice, groups of 12 to 15 animals were treated with weekly intraperitoneal injections according to one of four regimens: (i) anti-CD4 mAb from age 1 to 5 months (continuous treatment); (ii) anti-CD4 mAb from age 1 to 3 months (early treatment); (iii) anti-CD4 mAb from age 3 to 5 months (late treatment); and (iv) either normal saline or rat immunoglobulin (control treatment). Continuous treatment resulted in a dramatic reduction of both frequency and severity of the autoimmune disease, as demonstrated histologically and serologically. Early treatment also resulted in a significant reduction in autoimmune disease, while late treatment had little effect. Glomerulonephritis was detected in none of the animals in the continuously treated group (P < 0.05), 38% of those in the early-treated group (P = < 0.05), 92% of the late-treated group, and 100% of controls. The titer of antinuclear antibodies, of anti-dsDNA antibodies, and total immunoglobulin levels were all significantly reduced in the continuous-treatment and early-treatment groups, but not in the late-treatment group. Murine antibodies to rat anti-CD4 mAb were present in the late-treatment group. These results indicate that early short-course anti-CD4 mAb treatment of MRL/Ipr mice is effective in ameliorating the autoimmune disease in this model, while late-treatment is ineffective, probably due to the induction of antibody directed against anti-CD4 mAb itself.
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