Mitoxantrone induces cell death in peripheral blood leucocytes of multiple sclerosis patients

A. Chan, Franz X. Weilbach, K. V. Toyka, R. Gold

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Mitoxantrone (MX) is a cytotoxic drug with proven clinical efficacy in active multiple sclerosis (MS). In this ex vivo study we investigated the immunological effects of MX on peripheral blood leucocytes (PBL) from MS patients. PBL were isolated from 46 patients with active MS (mean age 42 years, female: male 1.4: 1) before and immediately after 1 h MX infusion. Isolated PBL were cultured and stimulated with phytohaemagglutinin (PHA), T cell receptor stimulating monoclonal antibody (MoAb) X35 or kept in culture medium alone. Proliferation was measured by [3H]-thymidine incorporation. MX-uptake and cell death in PBL subpopulations was analysed by flow cytometry using antibodies against cluster of differentiation (CD)-surface antigens, annexin V (AnnV) and propidium iodide (PI). MX was incorporated rapidly into PBL. After only a 1-h in vivo exposure, MX reduced proliferative responses in unstimulated and stimulated PBL (PHA: -17%, MoAb X35: -13%). MX-exposed PBL showed an increase of AnnV+/PI+cells (unstimulated: 12%, PHA: 15%), which was even more pronounced 2 weeks after infusion. No difference was observed between de novo MX-treated patients and those on long-term MX treatment. In T cell receptor stimulated PBL, cell death was induced preferentially in CD19-positive B cells and to a lesser extent in CD8-positive T cells. MX is incorporated rapidly in circulating PBL of MS patients and induces a pronounced suppression of proliferative responses. This suppression appears to be mediated at least partly by the induction of late apoptotic/necrotic cell death with a preferential susceptibility of B cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)152-158
Number of pages7
JournalClinical and Experimental Immunology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Apoptosis
  • B cells
  • Mitoxantrone
  • Multiple sclerosis


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