Endothelial activation during interleukin 2 immunotherapy. A possible mechanism for the vascular leak syndrome

R. S. Cotran, J. S. Pober, M. A. Gimbrone, T. A. Springer, E. A. Wiebke, A. A. Gaspari, S. A. Rosenberg, M. T. Lotze

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

182 Scopus citations


A major sequela of immunotherapy with interleukin 2 (IL-2) is development of a vascular leak syndrome. The pathogenesis of this toxic effect is not known. We have examined pre- and post-treatment skin biopsies from 14 patients undergoing systemic administration of IL-2 for evidence of endothelial cell activation. Specifically, we have used the immunoperoxidase technique to detect the expression of three different activation antigens: endothelial-leukocyte adhesion molecule 1, detected with monoclonal antibody H4/18; intercellular adhesion molecule 1, detected with antibody RR1/1; and histocompatibility leukocyte antigen-DQ, detected with antibody Leu 10. Each of these antigens may be induced on cultured endothelial cells by various cytokines (although not by IL-2) and is expressed during endothelial cell activation in vivo at sites of delayed hypersensitivity and other immune responses. Pretreatment biopsies from each patient showed no endothelial expression of endothelial-leukocyte adhesion molecule 1 and only weak to moderate expression of intercellular adhesion molecule 1 and histocompatibility leukocyte antigen-DQ (except for one specimen unreactive with Leu 10). After 5 days of treatment, every patient showed marked endothelial expression of all three antigens (except for the same patient who remained unreactive with Leu 10). Endothelial-leukocyte adhesion molecule-1 expression was confined to postcapillary venular endothelium whereas intercellular adhesion molecule-1 and Leu 10 also were expressed on stromal cells and mononuclear cells. Thus, we conclude that i.v. administration of IL-2 leads to endothelial cell activation. Because IL-2 fails to induce the same antigens on cultured endothelial cells, we infer that IL-2 acts in vivo by inducing the production of other cytokines (e.g., interleukin 1, tumor necrosis factor, lymphotoxin, and interferon-γ). Finally, since endothelial cell activation at sites of cell-mediated immune responses is well known to result in vascular leakiness to macromolecules, we propose that the vascular leak syndrome accompanying IL-2 therapy may arise from widespread inappropriate endothelial cell activation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1883-1888
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


Dive into the research topics of 'Endothelial activation during interleukin 2 immunotherapy. A possible mechanism for the vascular leak syndrome'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this