Background. The ability to express genes with potential immunoregulatory capacity could reduce the immunogenicity of allografts and result in long-term graft survival. In this study, we examine the feasibility of transferring viral interleukin-10 (vIL-10) gene into rat hearts using adenovirus by intracoronary administration. The subsequent effects of delivered vIL-10 alone or with subtherapeutic doses of cyclosporine A (CsA) on parameters of allograft rejection (AR) were also examined. Methods. Recombinant adenovirus vectors containing vIL-10 (Ad-vIL-10) or β-galactosidase (Ad-β-gal) were derived from adenovirus type 5. vIL-10 expression in supernatants of transfected COS7 cell cultures and in transfected heart allografts were examined by enzyme immunoassay (EIA) and reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), respectively. Rat heart transplants (LEWS->ACI) were performed in five groups [group 1: no treatment, group 2: Ad-β-gal, group 3: AdvIL-10, group 4: CsA (10 mg/kg), and group 5: Ad-vIL-10+CsA (10 mg/kg)]. Allograft survival was determined by palpating heartbeats. Allograft tissues were also submitted for histological study. Results. vIL-10 expression was shown in both transfected COS7 cells and heart isografts. Animals transfected with vIL-10 showed prolongation of graft survival (19.6 vs. 12 days, P<0.001) when compared to β-gal transfected controls. Animals treated with a single low dose injection of CsA showed no significant prolongation of graft survival compared to controls (11.7 vs. 10.5 days). Animals treated with both vIL-10 and CsA demonstrated a synergistic prolongation of allograft survival compared with controls and with animals treated with CsA or vIL-10 treatment alone (36.7 days vs. 11.7, P<0.001 or 36.7 vs. 19.6, P<0.001, respectively). Histological study showed that allografts from untreated controls exhibited extensive AR with loss of graft architecture by day 7 posttransplant while those from the vIL-10 group showed less AR. The best pathological scores were seen in vIL-10 + CsA-treated animals. Conclusions. 1) Delivering Ad-vIL-10 into donor hearts by intracoronary perfusion results in overexpression of vIL-10 and significantly prolongs cardiac allograft survival in a highly histoincompatible rat model. 2) Subtherapeutic doses of CsA do not prolong allograft survival, but act synergistically with vIL-10 to significantly prolong graft survival beyond that achieved with either agent alone.
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