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Ciliary neurotrophic factor Pharmacokinetics and acute-phase response in rat.

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Pharmacokrnetics m-d Acute-Phase
Response in Rat
Falk Dittrich, Hans Thoenen, and Michael Sendtnet
Ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF) supports the survival of motoneurons in vitro and in vivo. Recombinant CNTF
is an investigational drug for the treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. We determined the pharmacokinetics of
radioiodinated CNTF after intravenous injection into rats. CNTF shows a biphasic clearance with an initial plasma
half-life of 2.9 minutes and is removed from the circulation by the liver. No accumulation of radioactivity was
detectable in nerve tissue or skeletal muscle after intravenous injection of 0.1 pg and 0.5 pg of CNTF. Radioactive
degradation products accumulate in the skin. Liver cells express specific binding proteins for CNTF, and the incorporation and degradation of intravenously injected CNTF by the liver may occur after association of CNTF with the
soluble CNTF receptor cu in the circulation. Probably a9 a consequence of its binding to hepatocytes, CNTF induces
acute-phase responses in liver. The short half-life and the inflammatory side effect may limit the clinical usefulness of
systematically administered CNTF in the treatment of human motoneuron disorders.
Dittrich F, Thoenen H, Sendtner M. Ciliary neurotrophic factor: pharmacokinetics and
acutc-phase response in rat. Ann Neurol 1994;35:151-163
Ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF) has originally been
identified as a potent survival factor for a variety of
neuronal cell types in vitro {l), in particular, spinal
motoneurons of embryonic chick and rat {2-41. CNTF
prevents the degeneration of motoneurons in vivo during embryonic development when applied onto the
chorioallantoic membrane of developing chick [ S ] , and
in lesion experiments when delivered to the proximal
stump of a lesioned facial nerve of newborn rats 161.
Transgenic mice lacking functional CNTF gene
expression develop normally until birth but develop
progressive atrophic and degenerative changes in mo-
toneurons after the first postnatal weeks {7]. This sugthat the physiological function of CNTF might
be confined to the maintenance of neuronal function
in the adult rather than in survival and early differentiation of neuronal cells during development. The finding
that systemically delivered CNTF is capable of preventing the degeneration and functional loss of motoneurons in the homozygous progressive motor neuronopathy (pmn) mouse mutant [S], an animal model
for human spinal motoneuron disease, has raised hopes
that this factor might be useful in the treatment of
human degenerative disorders such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) {9]. However, little is known so
far about the pharmacokinetics and the side effects of
CNTF after systemic injection, information that is a
From the Max-Planck-Institute for Psychiatry, Department of Neurochemistry, Planegg-Martinsried, Germany.
Received May 24, 1993, and in revised form Aug 13. Accepted for
publication Oct 8, 1991.
prerequisite for potential clinical use of this compound
in humans.
Endogenous expression of CNTF is found in myelinating Schwann cells of peripheral nerves as well as
in a subpopulation of astrocytes, in particular, in the
optic nerve and the olfactory bulb of adult rats f 101.
CNTF does not share any sequence homology or similarity in biochemical properties with the members of
the nerve growth factor (NGF) gene family of neurotrophic factors [ll]. Predictions of the protein structure of CNTF have suggested that CNTF has a helical
framework similar to leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF),
oncostatin M, interleukin-6 (IL-G), and granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) 123. However, CNTF
differs from these molecules in that it is a cytosolic
molecule that does not possess a signal peptide for
secretion through the conventional endoplasmic reticulum-golgi apparatus pathway. Moreover, CNTF
does not appear to be glycosylated and lacks cysteine
bridges, indicating that the physicochemical properties
of CNTF could significantly differ from those of its
structural relatives I I- 161. Therefore, pharmacokinetic data obtained in vivo for recombinant human (rh)
factors like rhlL-6 { 171 and rhG-CSF [18} and for murine LIF ElC,] might not necessarily be pertinent to
The membrane-associated CNTF receptor complex
Address correspondence to Ur Sendtner, Max-Planck-Instirute for
Psychiatry, Department of Neurochemistry, Am Klopferspitz 18A,
8 2 ' 5 2 P'aneg-Martinsried' Germany'
Copyright 0 1994 by the American Neurological Association
15 1
appears to be composed of at least three subunits, t h e
CNTF receptor CY (CNTFRa), the glycoprotein gp130,
and the LIF receptor P (LIFRP) (for reviews, see [ZO22)). The structure of CNTFRa has been found to
be unrelated t o the receptors for NGF and related
neurotrophins [231 b u t homologous to the low-affinity
IL-6 receptor a (IL-6Ra) [20-22, 241. T h e expression
of CNTFRa has been described t o be mainly restricted
to the nervous system and skeletal muscle 124, 251. I t
was concluded from these findings that actions of
CNTF after systemic administration might be restricted to these tissues. I n this study we have examined t h e pharmacokinetics and some side effects of
systemically administered CNTF in the rat.
14 -
8 6 4 -
Adult male Wistar rats weighing 150 to 200 gm were used for
all experiments. The rats were obtained from the breeding
facilities of the Max-Planck-Institute of Biochemistry, where
they arc kept under specific pathogen-free conditions. Rats
were supplied with food and tap water ad libitum throughout
the course of the experiments. Experiments were performed
in accordance with Bavarian state legislation.
2 -
152 Annals of Neurology
Vol 35
No 2 February 1994
12 -
Materials and Methods
Radiozodirzation of C-terminal-modified CNTF
Recombinant rat CNTF contains only four tyrosine residues
[ 117 and could not be iodinated to high specific radioactivity
without using large amounts of IL'I-Na (P. Phelan, unpublished results). Therefore, a modified recombinant rat CNTF
with three additional C-terminal tyrosine residues, here denoted CNTFY, was designed by adding three codons for
tyrosine to the 1' end of the coding region of the cDNA for
rat CNTF (K. Stiickli, unpublished results), expressed in
E . coli as described r26] and used for iodination. Both CNTF
and CNTFY were purified from transfected E. coli using a
modification of the method described by Masiakowski and
colleagues {26], in which the chromatographic purification
of the protein on DEAE-cellulose was replaced by a single
reverse-phase, high-pressure liquid chromatography (IIPLC)
step on a preparative column (Vydac C4). Both CNTF and
CNTFY eluted as a single peak at 50 to 55% acetonitrile
with 0.1 % trifluoroacetic acid, and migrated as a single band
on a sodium dollecyl sulfate (SDS) containing polyacrylamide
gel under reducing conditions (data not shown). The peak
fractions, eluted from HPLC columns, were stored at - 70°C
aftcr addition of n-octyl-p-n-glucopyranoside (final concentration of 0.1%). Protein concentration was determined by
amino acid analysis prior to use.
Radioiodination was performed by addition of iactoperoxidase (5.4 x lo-'' rnol), H,02 (2.3 x 1 0 F mol), and 0.3
mCi of '"I-Na to 1 pgoofCNTFY (4.4 x lo-" mol) diluted
in 50 p1 of 35 mM potassium acetate at p H 5. This mixture
was incubated for 15 minutes at room temperature. After a
further 15-minute incubation step with a second addition of
H,02 (2.3 X lo-' mol), the specific radioactivity of 1251CNTFY was determined by precipitating an aliquot of the
reaction in 20% trichloroacetic acid (TCA) containing 0.25%
bovine serum albumin (BSA) and 0.3% Nal, and measuring
factor [ng/ml]
Fig 1 . Biological actizitj of ciliaq neurotrophicfactor t CNTF),
CNTFY {CNTF with three additional C-terminal tyrosine residues), and 1251-CNTFY.S i m i z d of cultured emblyonic day 8
chick ciliaq neurons in the presence of CNTF (el,C N T F Y
(V),and 12'l-CNTFY (B).Sum&htg neurons were counted
24 houn- after the addition of 10 p g , 50 pg< 100 p g , 500 Pg.
1 ng, or j ng of factor. Each point represents the mean of two
determinations;barJ represent the range. For impvoved clarity
the points for CNT F Y and '"I-CNTFY are shqted to the left
and right. respectivelv.
the radioactivity of the precipitate. An average specific radioactivity of 1.39 x lo8 cpmipg was determined, which is
equivalent to mean incorporation of 1.7 I 2 > I per molecule of
CNTFY. For further applications. free iodine was removed
by size exclusion chromatography using Sephadex G-50.
lL51-CNTFYwas eluted with Krebs-IZlnger-HEPES buffer
(KRH)at pH 7.3, giving a concentration of 1 to 1.5 ,~g/rnl.
The chick ciliary neuron survival assay was performed as described r27f. Surviving neurons were counted after 24 hours
in culture, and the factor concentration that supported halfmaximal survival of the cultured neurons was found to be
50,62, and 70 pgiml for CNTF, CNTFY, and '251-CNTFY,
respectively (Fig 1). Taking into account the variability of
the assay, the biological activity of all three molecules was
Detection of IntravenouJsly Injected '"I-CNTljY
Clearance and tissue distribution of CNTF was determined
after injection of 0.1 or 0.5 pg of '251-CNTFYin 300 pI of
phosphate-buffered saline (PBS) into the tail vein of ether-
anesthetized adult male Wistar rats (150-200 gm). At different time points after injection, the rats were killed by ether
overdose and blood was obtained by heart puncture. Organs
were removed after perfusion with 100 ml of PBS containing
1,000 units of heparin to remove vascular- from tissue-bound
'Z51-CNTFY.We chose this technique because no vascular
marker was available showing identical distribution in the
circulation as CNTF. The weight of wet tissue of the prepared organs was measured and the radioactivity was counted
for 10 minutes in a gamma counter. Aliquots of the tissues
were homogenized and precipitated in 20% TCA to determine the extent of degradation of 1251-CNTFY.
Autoradiogruphy of Po&zcylamideGels
Discontinuous polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (PAGE)
[28] was used for further analysis of blood and tissues collected at different times after intravenous (i.v.) injection of
'251-CNTFY. For SDS-PAGE under reducing conditions the
separations were performed for serum on 4 to 15% gradient
gels, for liver extracts on 10 to 20% gradient gels, and for
liver cell membrane proteins cross-linked to l2'I-CNTFY o n
6.59% gels. Serum was also separated by PAGE at pH 9.5
under nondenaturating conditions on 4 to 1 5 q Jgradient gels
prepared without SDS. The gels were dried and exposed to
x-ray films (Fuji, RX) at - 70°C with intensifying screens.
Band intensities were determined by scanning the autoradiograms with a densitometer (Molecular Dynamicsj.
Autorudzogrupby of Tissue Sections
At various time periods after i.v. injection of 0.1 bg (1.94
x 10' cpm) of 1251-CNTFY,rats were perfused with 0.01%
lidocaine in PBS and subsequently with 4%) paraformaldehyde in PBS. Tissues were dissected, postfixed for 2 hours,
dehydrated by several washing steps with 20% sucrose in
PBS, and frozen sections (7 pm) were prepared. Finally,
these sections were dipped in LM-1 emulsion (Amersham)
and developed after at least 3 days according to manufacturer's directions. After washing, the slides were stained with
hematoxylin and eosin.
Cross-Linking of I2jI-CNTFY I n Situ
Five minutes after i.v. injection of 0.5 p,g (7.1 X 10' cpm)
of '"I-CNTFY, rats were killed by ether overdose and 10
ml of KRH containing the cross-linking agent l-ethyl-3-(3dimethy1aminopropyl)carbodiimide(EDC) at a concentration
of 300 mM was injected into the liver via the portal vein.
After 20 minutes of incubation on ice, 5 ml of 1 M glycine
in PBS was injected via the portal vein to stop the reaction.
The liver was removed and minced in homogenization buffer
at p H 7.4 containing sucrose (0.25 mMj, NaHCO, ( 1 mMj,
MgCI, (2 mM), glycine (1 M), phenylmethylsulfonyl fluoride
DIM), aprotinin (1.5 p,M), and leupeptin (2.4 pM) with
a glass-glass homogenizer by 15 strokes at 500 rpm. Cell
membranes were pelleted by centrifuging the homogenate
(10 minutes, 1,000 g at 4°C). The pellet was washed once
with homogenization buffer and the membranes were further
purified by two-polymer phase partitioning as described [29J
The interphase was lysed in Tris-buffered saline at p H 7.1
containing 1% Nonidet P-40 and 10%) glycerol, and insoluble residues were removed by centrifugation for 5 minutes
at 12,000 g. The supernatant was separated by SDS-PAGE
and analyzed by autoradiography.
Northern Blot AnaIysis of Acute-Phase Response
Recombinant rat CNTF was lyophilized after dilution in a
buffer suitable for i.v. injection in humans (Elomel, Boehringer) containing 0.25% BSA (Sigma) with a low endotoxin
content. When redissolved in pyrogen-free water, the CNTF
showed n o loss of biological activity (data not shown). CNTF
was injected i.v. in a volume of 300 pI as described above,
and after different time points the liver was removed from
the killed rat and chilled in liquid nitrogen. R N A was extracted with guanidinium-thiocyanate and further purified by
isopyknic gradient centrifugation in cesium trifluoroacetatc
[ 30). Fifteen micrograms uf total RNA were electrophoresed
through 1.2% agarose gels containing formaldehyde (2 MI
and vacuum-blotted to nylon membranes (Hybond-N, Amersham). Hybridization was performed overnight at 42°C as
described 1101with 5 x lo6 cpmiml of a radioactive random
prime-labeled cDNA probe for human haptoglobin 1311.
Haptoglobin is induced as an acute-phase protein both in
human and rat [32]. Rat haptoglobin shows 755% and 82%
amino acid sequence identity with the a-and @-subunits of
the human haptoglobin allele one gene product [ 3 3 ] ;at the
cDNA level, the sequence identity for the @-subunitis approximately 78'7%.[34]. After washing two times in 2 x saline-sodium citrate (SSC) containing 0.1% SDS at room
temperature and once for 30 minutes in 0.1 X SSC containing 0.5% SDS at 5 0 T , the blots were exposed to x-ray
films (Fuji, RX) at -70°C with intensifying screens. Band
intensities were determined by scanning the autoradiograms
with a densitometer (Molecular Dynamics).
Clearunce from the Blood of Intruwnousl'
Injected l - ' J ~ - ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Following i.v. injection of 0.1 pg (1 x 10' cpm) of
lL51-CNTFY,approximately 7 5 of the radioactivity
was removed from the circulation within 10 minutes.
The initial half-time of clearance (to.s)
of '251-CNTFY
from the blood was 2.9 minutes, while the subsequent
decrease of 12'I-CNTFY levels in the blood was less
rapid (to,s,
4 hrj (Fig 2). The highest tissue concentra~
~ i.v. injection
tions of 1 L 5 ~ 10- minutes
0.23 x lo5 cpm/gm
were found in the liver (6.88
of tissue) (Fig 3a), indicating that about 70%, of the
injected radioactivity has accumulated in this organ (total wet weight (if liver, 11.5 gm). At the same time,
the levels of radioactivity in the urine were still very
low, and the kidneys contained only about 7% of the
injected radioactivity (3.86
0.4 x lo5 cpmigm of
wet tissue), confirming that the rapid removal of 1251CNTFY from the circulation within the first 10 minutes occurred via the liver rather than by renal clearance. At 6 hours after i.v. injection, more than 70%:
of the total amount of injected radioactivity was detcctable in the skin. Thus, removal of '"I-CNTFY and
its radioactive degradation products by renal clearance
Dittrich et al: CNTF Pharmacokinetics
time after i.v. injection [h]
Fig 2. Clearance of' intravenous<>!
injected '"1-CNTFY from
rat blood. A t dghrent time points (2.5 niin t o 16 hr) after injection of 0.1 pg ( I X 10' cpm) of '"1-CNTFY into the tail
win of male Wiitar ratj (150-200 gm).blood was collected by
heart puncture and radioactioity u m measured. Each point reprejents the mean of determinations J&om 3 or 4 ratJ. The insert
shows the same data jrom 2.5 minuteJ t o 30 minutes after injection on<y. Error bars represent the standard deviation (SD).
T,wo elimination phases lcith plasma half-lit!esfor '''1C N T F Y oJ2.9 minutes and 4 hozm, respectzvely, were obtained by best curw fitting using the GraFit program.
seems to play only a minor role in removing the radioactivity from the circulation also during the second
slower clearance phase. Indeed, levels of measurable
radioactivity in the urine were quite low (0.4 x lo5
cpmi50 pl at 10 minutes, 1.7 x lo5 cpmi50 p1 at 60
minutes, and 0.3 x 10' cpmiJO ~1 at 3 hours after i.v.
injection), suggesting that less than 10% of the injected radioactivity is removed by renal clearance
within 3 hours afcer i.v. injection of '251-CNTFY.
Bindiizg Proteins for 1251-CNTFYin the Blood
The autoradiograms of serum samples collected within
1 hour after i.v. injection of 0.1 pg (1 x 10' cpm) of
lL5J-CNTFYand separated by SDS-PAGE showed a
predominant '"I-CNTW band and two much fainter
bands at 45 kd and 14 kd, respectively (Fig 4a, lane
S). During the first hour after i.v. injection the intensity
of all three bands decreased, but no further radioactive
band appeared that might result from potential degradation fragments of lZ51-CNTFY(see Fig 4a). By running the same serum samples on a nondenaturating
polyacrylamide gel, it became apparent that after i.v.
injection '251-CNTI.1.' is associated with two plasma
proteins (Fig 4b). Most of the i.v. injected '"I-CNTFY
was bound to the smaller plasma protein. 1251-CNTFY
bound to this protein could be detected by autoradiography at a relative migration position corresponding
to the 94-kd protein phosphorylase 6. 1251-CNTEy
154 Annals of Neurology Vol 35 No 2 February 1994
Fig 3. Tiirue distribution of radioactivity after intravenous injection of '2SI-CNTFY(12j1-labeLedciliaq neurotrophi factor
with three additional C-terminal tyrosine residues) in rat. At
different time points afier injection of " X C N T F Y into the
tail vein of male Wistar rats 1150-200 gnii. the jpecz'jic radioactititji in dzjjirerit organs was measured (A,10 minute.( to
6 hourj after injection of 0.1 pg (1.13 x 10' cpm) and
(Bi 12 hours after injection of 0.5 pg 17.2 x 10' cpm) of
"'I-CNTFY. Data represent the mean of determinationsfrom
3 to 4 rats and error bars represent the SD.
Fig 4. Fate o f 12'I-CNTPY ("'1-labeled cilia y neurotrophic
factor ('"'I-CNTF} with three additional C-terminal tyrosine
residues) in rut blood after intrawnous iiijection. Serum obtained at indicated time points after injection of 0.I pg ( I x
10' rpm, of "'I-CNTFY into thr tail vein of mule WiJ.tar ratJ
(150-200 gm) wus separuted o n pobucylamide gels and anal3.zed 63 automdioRruphy. The urrow marks the "'I-CNTPY
band. (a) Sodium dodrcyl sulfate-pol~acrylaii~gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGEl under reducing conditions of 6 0 - 4 serum alip o t s using a I O to 20% gradient gel; S = aliquot o f r z s l CNT F Y solution (300 pg, 3 X 104 cpm) prior to injection;
the 4$-kd and the 14-kd band are dimers and degradation products of '"I-CNTFY reJpectiuely, us determined by western blot
arialysis with different CNTF-peptide antisera tdatu not
rhwni: expmure time = 2 days. (hi PAGE under nondenaturuting conditions of 20-4serzlm uliquots m i n g u 4 to 15% gradient gel. (61 PAGE under nondenaturating conditions using u
4 to 13% gradient gel: prior to electrophoresis, 10 pg of qvtochrome c uus loaded in all lunes to increase the protein concentration; bozmine ser14nz albumin iBSA: 67 kdj and phosphor3;lase
b (P; 94 k h were run on the .rame gel and their indkated location UUJ determined Jtaining with Coomassir Hue; S = aliquot of "'I-CNTFY solution 1260 p g , 2.6 X lo4 cpm) prior
to injection; lune 1 = 2 0 - 4 serum aliquot obtained 5 minutes
ufter intraaenous injection of'"'I-CNTFY;
lane 2 = 2.5 pg
qf. huvun cu,-macroglobulin (Sigma M-?15 11 was incubated for
I hour at 17°C with 1 ng of "'I-CNTFY in 10 4of
20 nziM sodium phosphate bufler at pH 7.4, and an aliqaot of
2 x 104 ipm u~asused for electrophorejisrs
Dittrich et al: CNTF Pharmacokinetics
associated with the larger plasma protein migrates to
the same position as '"I-CNTFY bound to human a'macroglobulin ( a , M ) (Fig 4c).
Tissue Distn'bzktion of '-?jI-CNTFYafter
lntrawnozls Injection
During the first hour after i.v. injection of 0.1 pg or 0.5
pg of '"I-CNTFY, the highest tissue concentrations of
L'51-CNTFY were detected in the liver. The levels of
specific radioactivity in the liver declined during the
following 6 hours to a similar low level as in the blood.
During this time period, the levels of specific radioactivity in the skin increased gradually to levels that were
higher than those in the liver (see Fig 3a). Unexpectedly, spinal cord, brain, and skeletal muscle, tissues
that are all known to express relatively high amounts
of the CYTFRa mRNA [24, 251, did not show any
accumulation of radioactivity within 6 hours after i.v.
injection of '"I-CNTFY (see Fig ?a). Twelve hours
after i.v. injection, levels of radioactivity in 10 mg of
desanguinated skeletal muscle were less than 15YG of
those detectable in 10 ~1 of blood. In the nervous
system, relatively high levels of specific radioactivity
were found only in the superior cervical ganglion
(SCG) (500 cpm/lO mg of tissue) and sciatic nerve
(200 cpm/10 mg of tissue), while the dorsal root ganglia contained less than 130 cpmi1O mg of tissue. Autoradiograms of spinal cord and brainstem did not
show any accumulation of radioactivity (data not
shown). Indeed, the levels of specific radioactivity in
these tissues were less than 40 cpmi10 mg (see Fig
3b), corresponding to maximally 0.28 pg of intact '251CNTFY per 10 mg of tissue, which is equivalent to
not more than one trophic unit per gram of tissue.
Degrudation of '"I-CNTFY by Liver Cells
To study the fate of 1251-CNTFYin the liver after i.v.
injection, we separated liver homogenates by SDSPAGE. Two major bands were detectable by autoradiography, an upper band, corresponding to "'ICNTFY, and a lower band at 14 kd, which is about
10 times less intensive and already detectable in the
"'I-CNTFY preparation after radioiodination (Fig 5).
Between 1 and 3 hours after i.v. injection the intensity
of the '251-CNTFY band declined significantly (more
Fig 5 . Degradztion o f intravenously injected '2SI-CNTFY
P>I-lubeled ciliavy neurotrophicfactor with three additional Cterminal tyruine resiCtlte~-)in rat liver. Liaw was excised at d;ffirent time points after injection of 0.1 p g (1.77 x 10' cpm)
of '"L-CNTFY into the tuil vein of male Wistar rats (150200 gmi, homogenhed. and the homogenate separuted by sodium
dodecyl su(fdte-polyacacv3;lamide gel electrophoresis on u 10 to
20%,grudient gel under rederiing conditions and analyzed by
autoradiography (exposure time = 2 weeks). Size of molccnlar
muss markers is indicated in kilodulrons; the arrow murk the
'"I-CNTFY band: S = aliquot of'"'I-CNTFY solution (34
pg, 6 x 1 O1 ipm) prior to injection; the less inten-re45-kd and
the 14-kd bands in lane S are discussed in Figure 4.
than 80x), whereas the total radioactivity in the liver
was reduced only 1.7 X . Simultaneously, a band at 7
kd (presumably representing a proteolytic fragmenr of
">I-CNTFY) increased in intensity. At 6 hours after
injection, most of the '"I-CNTFY appeared to be degraded, and the presumptive 7-kd proteolytic fragment
represented the dominant band. Consistent with this
observation, only 21% of the radioactivity in liver,
taken 6 hours after i.v. injection of '"I-CNTFY and
subsequently homogenized, could be precipitated in
20% TCA. Prior to injection, it was possible to precipitate 9594 of the radioactivity from the "'I-CNTFY
solution (Table). We could not analyze skin homogenates by SDS-PAGE because their level of radioactivity was too low. However, 6 hours after i.v. injection
of "'I-CNTFY, only 9% of the total radioactivity in
skin could be precipitated (see Table). These data indicate that the accumulated radioactivity in skin (see Fig
Triihloroaretic Acid-precipitahle Radioactiz1it.y in Diffrrent Tissues 6 Houn after 1njtctzon oi 0 . I pg ( I . 13
'-'5L-CNTFYinto the Tail Vein of Male Wistar Ruts (150-200 gmi
([cpm x lO-']igm
Adrenal gland
wet tissuej
Hairy skin
t2'1-labeled ciliary neurotrophic factor with three additional C-terminal tyrosine residues
156 Annals of Neurology Vol 35 No 2 February 1994
1O7 cpnd of
3a) can be attributed primarily to breakdown products
of '"I-CNTFY. In contrast, in adrenal gland 74% of
the tissue bound radioactivity could be precipitated by
TCA 6 hours after i.v. injection of "'I-CNTFY (see
Table), suggesting that a major proportion of the radioactivity measured represents intact '251-CNTFY.
Binding Sites o f '"I-CNTFY on Liver Cells
Autoradiograms of liver sections 1 hour after i.v. injection of 0.1 pg (1.94 x 10' cpm) of '"I-CNTFJ, when
most of the factor was not expected to be degraded
(see Fig 51, showed an accumulation of silver grains
over the cytoplasm and its compartments but not over
the nuclei of rat liver cells (Fig 6). This indicates that
a significant proportion of the i.v. injected lJ51-CNTFY
is taken up into the hepatocytes.
To analyze whether the accumulation of i.v. injected
">I-CNTFY in liver cells results from the interaction
with specific CNTF binding sites, we performed crosslinlung studies to liver cells in situ with '251-CNTFY
(Fig 7). T o do this we injected 0.5 kg (7.1 x 107cpm)
of '151-CNTFY into the tail vein and 5 minutes later,
the cross-linking agent EDC into the portal vein of
male Wistar rats (150-200 gm). At that time a high
~ I ~ O U of
I I1
~ 2 5 1 has
- ~already
~ ~ accumulated
in the
liver and, if bound to membrane proteins, would be
expected to be cross-linked to them under the conditions used. Following cross-linking, SDS-PAGE of purified liver cell membrane proteins gave three bands
of cross-linked proteins detectable by autoradiography
at 99, 140, and 235 kd.
Biological Eflccts of CNTF in the Liver after
lntruvenous lnjection
Recently, it has been shown that recombinant rat
CNTF increases mRNA levels of acute-phase proteins
in hepatocytes in vitro 131, 351. The accumulation of
'251-CNTFY in liver after i.v. injection (see Fig 3a)
raises the question as to whether CNTF also induces
acute-phase responses in vivo. To investigate this, the
level of haptoglobin mRNA in the liver was determined by northern blot analysis after i.v. injection of
CNTF (Fig 8). Time course analysis showed that the
level of haptoglobin mRNA in the liver reaches a rnaximum 8 hours after i.v. injection of 10 pg of CNTF
(Fig 8a). The level of haptoglobin mRNA in CNTFtreated rats at this time was significantly greater by a
factor of 2.3 (Student's t test, p = 0.005; n = 5 ) than
in control rats injected with the same volume of buffer
(Fig 8c). Also 6 hours after i.v. injection of 10 pg of
CNTF, a more than 2~ higher haptoglobin mRNA
level was detectable in comparison with control rats
(Fig 8b). Furthermore, the increase of haptoglobin
mRNA level 6 hours after i.v. injection of CNTF was
dose dependent (Fig 86). These results indicate that
the effects of CNTF on hepatocytes are not confined
Fig 6. Dictribution of "'I-CNTFY ("'1-bbefed cifiuv neurotrojihicfactor with three additional C-temirzul tyrosine residues) in rut fioer cells ufter intruvenou~~
injection. One hour
after irzjection of0.l p.,q (1.94 X lo7 cpmi of "'I-CNTFY
into the tazf win of vule Wiitur rut.! (150-200 gmi. the h e r
u'as perJzlsed in iitu u'ith phosphate-buffired Jaline IPBS, avid
subsequenthi with 4%)purafoomufdehydein PBS. clfier postfixation ilnd dehydrution 7-p.nafrozen sections were prepared and
ilnuhzed by autorudiogruphy us described in Malerials and
Methods. Bright-field (a) arid durkfeld ibi photomicrographs rez'eufedthe accumufution of silz'er gruins o ~ e rthe cytopfusm and
its cornpartmentJ. bat not over the nuclei of rat liwv cells.
I x 400 befave 22%) reduction.)
to cultured cells but also occur in vivo after pharmacological administration of CNTF.
To be of therapeutic value in the treatment of degenerative motoneuron disease, CNTF should be accessible
to motoneurons, for example via their endplates,
where proteins are taken up from the circulation [36].
Therefore, we studied the pharmacokinetics of CNTF
after i.v. injection. For our experiments we used iodinDittrich et al: CNTF Pharmacokinetics
elimination phase of lL51-CNTFYoccurred before this
time, it would not be detected in our experiments.
Corresponding experiments with unlabeled recombinant rat CNTF detected in serum by a two-site enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay [38) have shown
similar results. Also in this experimental paradigm, the
initial plasma half-life of CNTF was shorter than 10
minutes, suggesting that the rapid disappearance of radioactivity from the blood is not due to cleavage of the
C-terminal 1251-tyrosineresidues from the "51-CNTFY
molecule or to deiodination.
Analysis of the tissue distribution of "'I-CNTFY
after i.v. injection revealed a correlation between the
fast elimination from the blood (see Fig 2) and the
accumulation of '251-CNTFY in the liver (see Fig 3a).
This situation is similar to that observed for the structurally related compound IL-6. Most of this factor
(80%) is taken up by the liver 20 minutes after i.v.
injection into rats C17). In contrast, for LIF, another
structural analogue of CNTF, the fast elimination after
i.v. injection into mice has been shown to be due to
clearance by the kidneys 1191. Our data suggest that
bolus i.v. injection might be inadequate for clinical
CNTF administration because it leads to poor bioavailability of CNTF for motoneurons. Moreover, these
results might also have implications for subcutaneous
injection of CNTF. Although long-term serum levels
of proteins after subcutaneous injection might be
higher than those after i.v. injection, as was shown for
F i g 7. C r o d i n k i n g of '251-CNTFY (i2~I-lub&dc i / h y neurorhG-CSF [181, a significant proportion of subcutanetrophicfactor with three additional C-terminal tyrosine resiously
injected CNTF would pass the liver once it has
dues) t o membrane proteins of rat liver cells in situ. Five minentered
the bloodstream. Thus, other manners of
utes afier injection of 0.5 pg (7.1 x 10' qn2)
of ' 2 5 1 - c ~ ~ ~ ~
CNTF application should be considered (see below).
into the tail vein of a mah Wistar rat !2OO gmi I O ml of
That the elimination of i.v. injected '251-CNTFY by
Krebs-Ringer-HEPES buffer containing the cross-linking agent
1300 mM)was
the kidneys apparently does not play a major role in
injected into its portal vein. Membrane proteins were purified
the clearance of this factor suggests that '"I-CNTFY
fyom liver. separated by sodium dodeqd sulfate-po[yacr$anLi&
might bind to plasma proteins. PAGE analysis under
gel electrophoresis under reducing conditions on a 6.5 % gel, and
nondenaturating conditions shows the binding of Ir51Jinally analyzed by autoradiography. Size of. molecular mass
CNTFY to two distinct plasma proteins (see Fig 4b).
markers is indicated in kilodaltons.
The smaller plasma protein seems to have a molecular
mass of less than 100 kd.
ated, C-terminally modified recombinant rat CNTF
Recently, soluble CNTFRa (sCNTFRa), which has
( '251-CNT~;Y),
whose biological activity in the chick
a molecular mass of 68 kd, has been detected in human
ciliary neuron assay was indistinguishable from unmodcerebrospinal fluid and blood plasma 1391. Thus, it is
ified CNTF (see Fig 1). Intravenously injected '251tempting to speculate that the smaller plasma protein
CNTFY shows biphasic clearance kinetics with a fast
shown in Figure 3b, binding most of the '"I-CNTFY,
initial phase (see Fig 2) similar to the kinetics of rhIL-6
could be sCNTFRa. SDS-PAGE analysis under reducafter i.v. injection into rats [17], of rhG-CSF injected
ing conditions of the same blood samples revealed eii.v. into humans {37] and of murine recombinant LIF
ther that l2>I-CNTEYis not degraded after i.v. injeci.v. injected into mice {19]. We could not decide from
tion in the blood, at least not during the first hour after
our results whether the two deduced elimination
injection (see Fig 4a), or that its fragments are removed
phases of "'I-CNTEY would best be described as afrom the circulation immediately after degradation. In
and P-phases or P- and y-phases of drug elimination.
contrast, a radiolabeled 7-kd polypeptide was detectFor experimental reasons blood sampling by heart
able in liver extracts, which progressively increased in
puncture was not possible earlier than 2.5 minutes
relative intensity compared with the '"I-CNTFY band
after i.v. injection into the tail vein. Thus, if the first
during the first 6 hours, during which time the intensity
158 Annals of Neurology
Vol 35
No 2 February 1994
i.v. injected CNTF [pg]
Fig 8. Stimulation of haptoglobin gene expression in rat liver by
ciliav neurotrophic factor ICNTFI. Recombinant rat CNTF
uus diluted in bufler (see Materials and Methods) lyophilized.
rediisoloed in pyrogen-fvee water, avid injected into the tail vein
of ether-anesthetized male Wistar rats (150-200 gmi. At difierent times aft@ injection. total R N A wus extracted from liver
and subjected to rrorthem blot analysii. ?'he filters were hybridized with a radioactioe random prime-Labeled cDNA probe fur
human haptoglobin and the resultant autoradiograms scanned
for densitometric analysis. Hp = haptoglobin mRNA. (a) Time
course of haptoglobirr mRNA level after injection of 10 pg of
' CNTF. (b) Six hozirs after injection of I0 pg of CNTF (lane
3 ) the leoel of haptoglobin mRNA was 3.1 x higher than in
noninjected control ruts (lane 1) and 2.2 x higher than in rats
injected with the same volume of Sufleey only (lane 21:szze of
R N A markers is indicated in kilobases; 28s rKNA and 18s
rRNA were stained with methylene blue on the blot t o demonstrate that the am amounts of total R N A were loaded in each
lane (lower panel). (c} Increase in haptoglobin mRNA level at 8
hours after injertion of 10 pg of CNTF ( + CNTFJ a factor
of 2.3 in comparison with control rats injected with the same
volume of buj$r only ( - CNTFj: statistical sign$cance tested
6.;Student? t test: p = 0.005; n = 5 i n each group.
(di Dose-response correlation between haptoglobin mKNA level
und the amount of CNTF injected at 6 bows after injection.
The basal haptoglobin mRNA level (set to 100%) was determined from rat.i injected with the same z'olume of buffer only.
The bar represents the haptog[obin mRNA lez!el in rats 24
hours after intramuscular injection of 250 I.1 of turpentine,
as u positive control.
Dittrich et al: CNTF Pharmacokinetics
of the "'I-CNTFr' band decreased (see Fig 5). The
7-kd polypeptide may be a proteolytic fragment of "'1CNTFY. Many proteins, including IL-6 and N G F have
been shown to be protected from proteolysis after
binding to a,M in the blood [40, 41). Correspondingly, the larger plasma protein, which binds l2'1CNTFY (see Fig 4b),might be aZM.In support of this
hypothesis, we found that 1251-CNTFY,associated with
the larger plasma protein, migrates to the same position
as IZ5I-CNTFYbound to human a,M (see Fig 4c).
The accumulation of "'I-CNTFY in the liver after
i.v. injection was surprising, as CNTFRa, the primary
CNTF binding site on CNTF-responsive cells {42),
was not expected in high amounts in this organ according to the reported levels of CNTFRa mRNA
[24, 251. However, high amounts of cell membraneassociated CNTFRa might not be necessary for the
accumulation of '251-CNTFY in the liver, if one assumes that most of the i.v. injected CNTF becomes
associated with sCNTFRa in the blood. The '"ICNTFYisCNTFRa complex might then bind in the
liver to other subunits of the CNTF receptor complex
associated with the cell membrane [ 3 9 , 4 3 ]and present
on liver cells (Fig 9 as a model of CNTF disposition
after i.v. injection). Under these assumptions, the accumulation of CNTF in liver would require that these
other subunits are highly expressed in cells of this organ.
The cell membrane-associated CNTF receptor complex has been suggested to be composed of at least
three subunits, CNTFRor, gp130, and LIFRP [20-22,
37, 43, 441. The glycoprotein gp130 has been shown
to transduce the CNTF signal, most likely together
with at least one other component, which might be the
LIFRP {22, 39, 43, 44}, and to be highly expressed by
liver cells r25). Therefore, binding of a "'I-CNTFYI
sCNTFRcx complex to gp130 might mediate the accumulation of '"I-CNTFY in the liver. The model of the
cell membrane-associated CNTF receptor complex is
consistent with our results obtained by cross-linking of
'"I-CNTFY to liver in situ (Fig 7). Taking into account
a molecular mass of 23 kd for 'ZSI-CNTFY,we observed a cross-linked protein of 76 kd on liver cells,
which is the expected size of the rat CNTFRa C24, 391.
It has been proposed that on primary rat hepatocytes,
CNTF binds to the IL-6Rcv [35}, which has a molecular
mass of approximately 80 kd {32). However, CNTF
does not bind to the soluble IL-GRa, and a hepatoma
cell line lacking the IL-6Ra responds to CNTF [31].
Therefore, it is highly likely that IZ51-CNTFYis crosslinked to rat liver cells (ix., predominately hepatocytes) in situ to CNTFRor. Two other bands detectable
after cross-linking of 'L51-CNTFY to liver cells in situ
showed relative molecular masses of about 140 kd and
235 kd (see Fig 7). The molecular mass of gp130 expressed on a rat sympathoadrenal progenitor cell line
has been reported to be 145 kd 1251, and for the ungly160
Annals of Neurology
Vol 35
No 2 February 1994
6 0 kD
a1 k D
Fig 9. iModel oj- ciliurj neurotrophicfactor (CNTFi disposition
after intruuenous ( After i.i,. injection CNTF becomes ussociuted with the soluble CNTF receptor a (sCNTFRa1
in the &ulation. O n the cell membrane o f h e r cehs and other
CNTF-rejponsiiie celh in zivo. the CNTFIsCNII'FRu complex
asiociutes with @130 and LIFRP t o ,form a functional C N T F
receptor complex.
cosylated human form of gpl30, a molecular mass of
101 kd has been determined [45, 461. Therefore, the
cross-linked band of 140 kd could result from '"1CNTFY bound to gp 130 being tissue-specifically glycosylated to a lesser extent than in neuronal cells. The
23 5-kd band could represent '"1-CNTFY cross-linked
to the LIFRP, as the molecular mass of the glycosylated
form of the human placental LIFRP is 190 kd 147).
Thus, on liver cells, the initial steps of signal transduction following CNTF binding may be identical to those
described for neuronal cell lines [441 and for an erythroleukemia cell line 1431.
Six hours after i.v. injection of 1'51-CNTFY, radioactivity accumulated in the hairy skin, the tissue with the
highest specific radioactivity at this time point (Fig 3a).
This is strikingly similar to the tissue distribution of
'251-rhIL-6after i.v. injection in the rat: At 5 hours, the
radioactivity attributable to '251-rhTL-6 in liver had de-
clined significantly and high levels were found in skin,
which radioactivity was suggested to be degradation
products of "'I-rhIL-6 generated by fibroblasts [48).
In contrast, our results indicate that the degradation of
"'1-CNTFY has already taken place in the liver (see
Fig 5), and that the radioactivity accumulated in the fat
cells of the hairy skin (data not shown) does not reprcsent intact '251-CNTFY, but breakdown products (see
Our data suggest that "'I-CNTFY does not accumulate in skeletal muscle after systemic administration
(see Fig 3a). Even 12 hours after injection, the specific
radioactivity detectable in skeletal muscle was lower
than that of either liver, adrenal gland, or the SCG (see
Fig 3b). This seems to be at odds with the reported
high abundance of CNTFRa mRNA in skeletal muscle
{24, 251. Recently, it was suggested that, after nerve
injury, a significant proportion of the CNTFRa produced in skeletal muscle is released into the circulation
{39}. If this also happens in unlesioned animals, i.v.
injected CNTF might bind to soluble and not cell
membrane-associated CNTFRa in skeletal muscle.
Preferential accumulation of "51-CNTFY/sCNTFRa
complex in the liver rather than in skeletal muscle may
thus be due to a relatively high expression of gp130
protein on the surface of liver cells, to which the '"1CNTFYlsCNTFRa complex might bind.
A side effect of CNTF after systemic application is
the increase of haptoglobin gene expression in the liver
(see Fig 8). Haptoglobin is an acute-phase protein 1431,
whose gene expression is increased by CNTF in a human hepatoma cell line [3 11. Stimulation of acutephase responses by recombinant human cytokines
were also observed in vitro with primary hepatocytes
and hepatoma cell lines for IL-6 [SO], LIF {5l}, and
oncostatin M [S2f, and in vivo for IL-6 {53, 54). Therefore, one might assume that there are similar signaling
pathways for these effects in hepatic cells. Indeed, the
receptors of these cytokines are members of a hematopoietic cytokine receptor family {20, 551, which use
gp13O for signal transduction 143, 45, 56, 57). Recently, a 1 3 0 was also described as being involved in
CNTF signal transduction in neuronal cells 143, 441,
as well as in an erythroleukemia cell line [43}. Our
data concerning the cross-linking of '251-CNTFY to
membrane proteins of liver cells in situ (see Fig 7)
suggest that gpl30 and LIFRP are involved in the initial CNTF signal transduction for the induction of
acute-phase response in hepatocytes. Further experiments are required to determine whether CNTF and
LIF, which are believed to use the same initial signal
transduction pathways (for reviews, see 121, 223, induce identical patterns of acute-phase proteins in
Taken together, our results indicate that systemic
injection of CNTF might not lead to optimal availabil-
ity to motoneurons, the target cells for the clinical use
of CNTF in motoneuron disease. Most i.v. injected
CNTF is taken up (see Fig 3a) and degraded (Fig 4)
by the liver. Not more than one trophic unit of "'ICNTEY per gram of tissue could be detected in the
spinal cord 12 hours after i.v. injection of 0.5 pg of
'251-CNTFY.Even under optimal diffusion conditions
such as in cell culture, one trophic unit of CNTF would
elicit only half-maximal response on neuronal survival.
As CNTF is a protein of 200 amino acids, low diffusion
within the extracellular space is expected to prevent
the majority of CNTF from binding to its specific neuronal receptors. Correspondingly, previous experiments have shown that about 500 trophic units per
milliliter of blood are necessary to improve motor
function in pmn mice [S, 38}, an animal model of
human motoneuron disease.
Even if positive results with systemacically administered CNTF were obtained in ALS patients, OUT results
indicate that optimization of CNTF delivery will be
necessary to obtain maximal therapeutic benefit. One
way to improve the bioavailability of compounds to
the central nervous system (CNS) and nerve roots is
intrathecal injection 158, 531. Alternatively, it might
be necessary to use gene therapeutic approaches [bO,
611 to provide increased concentrations of CNTF
within the CNS at its sites of action, i.e., motoneurons
in the spinal cord and regions within the CNS containing upper motoneurons.
In addition, side effects of systemically administered
CNTF on hepatocytes might further limit this therapeutical approach. From our study, we would predict
the induction of acute-phase proteins as a side effect
of CNTF in patients treated with pharmacological
doses of this factor. However, quantitative toxicologcal data relevant to the use of CNTF in patients can
only be obtained from clinical trials.
This work was supported by grants from the Schilling Stiftung im
Forscherverband der Deutschen Indusme.
We thank Dr E. Mehl and Mrs J. Plambeck for amino acid analysis
of the CNTF preparations and Dr S. Rose-John for the human haptoglobin cDNA clone. We gratefully acknowledge the support of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. We also thank Drs P. Carroll, J. Huber,
R. A. Hughes, and K. V. Toyka for helpful discussions and critically
reading rhe manuscript.
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