The regulation of mRNA encoding transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta) and interleukin 2 (IL-2) in normal human T cells was explored using novel competitor DNA constructs in the quantitative polymerase chain reaction and accessory cell-independent T cell activation models. Our experimental design revealed the following: (a) TGF-beta mRNA and IL-2 mRNA are regulated differentially in normal human T cells, quiescent or signaled with the synergistic combinations of: sn-1,2-dioctanoylglycerol and ionomycin or anti-CD3 monoclonal antibody (mAb) and anti-CD2 mAb; (b) the steady-state level of TGF-beta mRNA in the stimulated T cells, in contrast to that of IL-2 mRNA, is increased by the immunosuppressant cyclosporine (CsA); and (c) the paradoxical effect of CsA on TGF-beta mRNA levels is also appreciable at the level of production of functionally active TGF-beta protein. Our findings, in addition to demonstrating the utility of the competitor DNA constructs for the precise quantification of immunoregulatory cytokines, suggest a novel and unifying mechanistic basis for the immunosuppression and some of the complications (e.g., renal fibrosis) associated with CsA usage.

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