Immunomodulatory effects of Viscum album agglutinin-I on natural immunity

T. Hajto, K. Hostanska, J. Fischer, R. Saller

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In 24 h cultured human peripheral blood mononuclear cells, treated with various (1 μg/ml to 1 ng/ml) concentrations of Viscum album agglutinin-I, quantitative assessment of DNA breaks labelled with terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase revealed a dose-dependent Viscum album agglutinin-I-induced apoptosis above a lectin concentration of 10 ng/ml. After 24 h incubation of peripheral blood mononuclear cells with non-cytotoxic concentrations of Viscum album agglutinin-I (10 and 1 ng/ml), messenger (m)RNA expression and secretion of a panel of cytokines were evaluated by reverse polymerase chain reaction and by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), respectively. The lectin induced expression of interleukin-1α, interleukin-1β, interleukin-6, tumour necrosis factor-α, interferon-γ, granulocyte-monocyte colony stimulating factor and interleukin-10 genes, but no expression of interleukin-2 or interferon-γ production could be detected. In addition, cellular components of the natural immune system (such as monocytes and granulocytes) bound Viscum album agglutinin-I molecules to a higher degree than lymphocytes. To establish the modulatory potency of Viscum album agglutinin-I on the natural immunity of human subjects, four randomized, double-blind crossover trials were performed on healthy volunteers. In contrast to the significant lectin-induced increases in number and activity of natural killer cells observed in animal models, in the first and second trial human healthy individuals showed no significant differences between their natural killer responses following an injection of lectin-enriched preparation or saline. Due to considerable intrinsic fluctuation of these parameters, a third and fourth double-blind trial with freshly isolated Viscum album agglutinin-I was performed using a more rapidly detectable parameter, the priming of granulocytes. Here, significant lectin-induced increases were found.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S43-S46
JournalAnti-Cancer Drugs
Issue numberSUPPL. 1
Publication statusPublished - May 24 1997



  • Mistletoe lectin
  • Natural killer cells
  • Priming of granulocytes
  • Pro-inflammatory cytokines

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Cancer Research

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