After the cloning of murine cytokine synthesis inhibitory factor, it was recognized that a homologous open reading frame was encoded within the Epstein-Barr virus (human herpes virus 4). This viral protein has now been termed viral interleukin 10 (vIL-10) to reflect its protein sequence homology to "cellular" IL-10 (cIL-10, either murine or human IL-10). It is now widely accepted that vIL-10 shares many functions with cIL-10, principally, the ability to enhance survival of newly infected B cells and to diminish the production of IFN-gamma and IL-2 during ongoing immune reactions. The immunomodulatory effect of locally secreted vIL-10 and murine IL-10 (mIL-10) was examined in tumor models using CL8-1 (a BL6 melanoma cell line transfected with the H-2Kb class I gene) in syngeneic animals. Although parental BL6 tumor cells grow in immunocompetent syngeneic hosts, CL8-1 are rejected. To achieve local secretion of vIL-10, we generated vIL-10 retroviral vectors. While nontransduced CL8-1 cells (1 x 10(4)) failed to grow when injected intradermally in C57BL/6 mice, CL8-1 cells (1 x 10(4)) transduced with vIL-10 formed palpable tumors and eventually killed 80% of injected animals. Suppression of tumor rejection was also noted when CL8-1 tumors with or without vIL-10 transfection were admixed with syngeneic vIL-10-transfected fibroblasts and inoculated. Since the in vitro proliferation of the tumor was not altered after transduction with the vIL-10 gene and injection of vIL-10-transduced CL8-1 does not affect the rejection of nontransduced CL8-1 inoculated at a distant site, local vIL-10 secretion appears to suppress the process of immune rejection of the target cells in a dose-dependent manner. Similar results were observed for the H-2b MCA105 sarcoma tumor model in allogeneic BALB/c mice (H-2d). Although all animals that received nontransfected MCA105 rapidly rejected these tumors, MCA105 sarcomas transfected with vIL-10 remained palpable for up to 37 d. The local immunosuppressive effect of gene-delivered vIL-10 could be neutralized by anti-human IL-10 monoclonal antibody or could be reversed by the systemic administration of IL-2 or IL-12. In marked contrast, mIL-10 transfection of CL8-1 significantly suppressed tumor growth and frequently led to the rejection of tumor. Similar results were obtained for the murine tumor cell lines MCA102.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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