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1.  FTY720 (fingolimod) modulates the severity of viral-induced encephalomyelitis and demyelination 
FTY720 (fingolimod) is the first oral drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treatment of patients with the relapsing-remitting form of the human demyelinating disease multiple sclerosis. Evidence suggests that the therapeutic benefit of FTY720 occurs by preventing the egress of lymphocytes from lymph nodes thereby inhibiting the infiltration of disease-causing lymphocytes into the central nervous system (CNS). We hypothesized that FTY720 treatment would affect lymphocyte migration to the CNS and influence disease severity in a mouse model of viral-induced neurologic disease.
Mice were infected intracranially with the neurotropic JHM strain of mouse hepatitis virus. Infected animals were treated with increasing doses (1, 3 and 10 mg/kg) of FTY720 and morbidity and mortality recorded. Infiltration of inflammatory virus-specific T cells (tetramer staining) into the CNS of FTY720-treated mice was determined using flow cytometry. The effects of FTY720 treatment on virus-specific T cell proliferation, cytokine production and cytolytic activity were also determined. The severity of neuroinflammation and demyelination in FTY720-treated mice was examined by flow cytometry and histopathologically, respectively, in the spinal cords of the mice.
Administration of FTY720 to JHMV-infected mice resulted in increased clinical disease severity and mortality. These results correlated with impaired ability to control viral replication (P < 0.05) within the CNS at days 7 and 14 post-infection, which was associated with diminished accumulation of virus-specific CD4+ and CD8+ T cells (P < 0.05) into the CNS. Reduced neuroinflammation in FTY720-treated mice correlated with increased retention of T lymphocytes within draining cervical lymph nodes (P < 0.05). Treatment with FTY720 did not affect virus-specific T cell proliferation, expression of IFN-γ, TNF-α or cytolytic activity. FTY720-treated mice exhibited a reduction in the severity of demyelination associated with dampened neuroinflammation.
These findings indicate that FTY720 mutes effective anti-viral immune responses through impacting migration and accumulation of virus-specific T cells within the CNS during acute viral-induced encephalomyelitis. FTY720 treatment reduces the severity of neuroinflammatory-mediated demyelination by restricting the access of disease-causing lymphocytes into the CNS but is not associated with viral recrudescence in this model.
PMCID: PMC4148542  PMID: 25138356
FTY720; S1P receptor; virus; central nervous system; T lymphocytes; demyelination
2.  FTY720 (fingolimod) in Multiple Sclerosis: therapeutic effects in the immune and the central nervous system 
British Journal of Pharmacology  2009;158(5):1173-1182.
FTY720 (fingolimod) is a first-in-class sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P) receptor modulator that was highly effective in Phase II clinical trials for Multiple Sclerosis (MS). FTY720 is phosphorylated in vivo by sphingosine kinase-2 to form the active moiety FTY720-phosphate that binds to four of the five G protein-coupled S1P receptor subtypes. Studies using conditional S1P1 receptor-deficient and sphingosine kinase-deficient mice showed that the egress of lymphocytes from lymph nodes requires signalling of lymphocytic S1P1 receptors by the endogenous ligand S1P. The S1P mimetic FTY720-phosphate causes internalization and degradation of cell membrane-expressed S1P1, thereby antagonizing S1P action at the receptor. In models of human MS and demyelinating polyneuropathies, functional antagonism of lymphocytic S1P1 slows S1P-driven egress of lymphocytes from lymph nodes, thereby reducing the numbers of autoaggressive TH17 cells that recirculate via lymph and blood to the central nervous system and the sciatic/ischiatic nerves. Based on its lipophilic nature, FTY720 crosses the blood–brain barrier, and ongoing experiments suggest that the drug also down-modulates S1P1 in neural cells/astrocytes to reduce astrogliosis, a phenomenon associated with neurodegeneration in MS. This may help restore gap-junctional communication of astrocytes with neurons and cells of the blood–brain barrier. Additional effects may result from (down-) modulation of S1P3 in astrocytes and of S1P1 and S1P5 in oligodendrocytes. In conclusion, FTY720 may act through immune-based and central mechanisms to reduce inflammation and support structural restoration of the central nervous system parenchyma. Beyond the autoimmune indications, very recent studies suggest that short-term, low-dose administration of FTY720 could help treat chronic (viral) infections. Differential effects of the drug on the trafficking of naïve, central memory and effector memory T cell subsets are discussed.
PMCID: PMC2782328  PMID: 19814729
S1P (sphingosine 1-phosphate); FTY720 (fingolimod); Multiple Sclerosis; autoimmunity; central nervous system; immunotherapy; infection
3.  The Sphingosine-1-Phosphate Analogue FTY720 Impairs Mucosal Immunity and Clearance of the Enteric Pathogen Citrobacter rodentium 
Infection and Immunity  2012;80(8):2712-2723.
The sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) analogue FTY720 is therapeutically efficacious in multiple sclerosis and in the prevention of transplant rejection. It prevents the migration of lymphocytes to sites of pathology by trapping them within the peripheral lymph nodes, mesenteric lymph nodes (MLNs), and Peyer's patches. However, evidence suggests that its clinical use may increase the risk of mucosal infections. We investigated the impact of FTY720 treatment on susceptibility to gastrointestinal infection with the mouse enteric pathogen Citrobacter rodentium. This attaching and effacing bacterium induces a transient bacterial colitis in immunocompetent mice that resembles human infection with pathogenic Escherichia coli. FTY720 treatment induced peripheral blood lymphopenia, trapped lymphocytes in the MLNs, and prevented the clearance of bacteria when mice were infected with luciferase-tagged C. rodentium. FTY720-treated C. rodentium-infected mice had enhanced colonic inflammation, with significantly higher colon mass, colon histopathology, and neutrophil infiltration than vehicle-infected animals. In addition, FTY720-treated infected mice had significantly lower numbers of colonic dendritic cells, macrophages, and T cells. Gene expression analysis demonstrated that FTY720-treated infected mice had an impaired innate immune response and a blunted mucosal adaptive immune response, including Th1 cytokines. The data demonstrate that the S1P analogue FTY720 adversely affects the immune response to and clearance of C. rodentium.
PMCID: PMC3434556  PMID: 22615252
4.  Activation of the lung S1P1 receptor reduces allergen-induced plasma leakage in mice 
British Journal of Pharmacology  2009;158(5):1295-1301.
Background and purpose:
It has been suggested that intratracheal administration of the immunomodulator, FTY720, could have anti-inflammatory effects without causing a decrease in blood lymphocyte counts. However, the receptor responsible for this effect has not been defined.
Experimental approach:
We have described, in a mouse model of allergen-induced inflammation, the use of proton magnetic resonance imaging to non-invasively assess lung fluid accumulation and inflammation. Here, we used this model to investigate the sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) receptor responsible for the anti-inflammatory effect of FTY720.
Key results:
When given intranasally, FTY720 (3 and 10 µg·kg−1) inhibited by approximately 50% the allergen-induced accumulation of fluid in the lung detected by magnetic resonance imaging, but had no effect on the cellular inflammation in the airway space or on circulating blood lymphocytes. Inhibition of the infiltration of inflammatory cells into the airways was only observed at a dose of FTY720 that induced lymphopenia (100 µg·kg−1). Similar results were observed in S1P3-deficient mice. The effect of FTY720 was mimicked by intranasal treatment of wild-type mice with a S1P1-specific agonist, AUY954.
Conclusions and implications:
Thus, in contrast to previously published work, our results suggest that systemic exposure of FTY720 is necessary to obtain an airway anti-inflammatory effect. On the contrary, inhibition of the allergen-induced accumulation of fluid in the lung, via activation of the S1P1 receptor, is obtainable without systemic effects.
PMCID: PMC2782338  PMID: 19785648
sphingosine-1-phosphate type 1 receptor; plasma leakage; magnetic resonance imaging; mouse; asthma
5.  FTY720 blocks egress of T cells in part by abrogation of their adhesion on the lymph node sinus 
Egress of lymphocytes from lymphoid tissues is a complex process in which Gαi-mediated signals play a decisive role. We show here that although FTY720, an agonist of the sphingosine 1-phosphate 1 receptor (S1P1R), induces S1P1R internalization sufficiently in the presence or absence of Gαi2 or Gαi3, the drug blocks egress of wild type (WT) and Gαi3-deficent T cells, but not Gαi2-deficient T cells in both WT and Gαi2-deficient hosts. Intravital imaging of lymph nodes revealed that all three groups of T cells approached and engaged cortical sinusoids similarly in the presence or absence of FTY720. The cells also entered and departed the sinus at an almost identical frequency in the absence of the drug. However, after engagement of the sinus, most WT and Gαi3-deficient T cells retracted and migrated back into the parenchyma in FTY720-treated animals, due to a failure of the cells to establish adhesion on the sinus, whereas Gαi2-deficient T cells adhered firmly on the sinus that prevented their retraction, facilitating their transmigration of the lymphatic endothelial barrier. These data confirm egress of Gαi2−/− T cells independent of S1P-mediated chemotaxis and failure of FTY720 to close lymphatic stromal channels, and argue for the first time that FTY720 induces lymphopenia in part by impairing T cell adhesion to the sinus in a manner dependent on Gαi2.
PMCID: PMC3167479  PMID: 21788441
6.  Prevention, but not cure, of autoimmune diabetes in a NOD.scid transfer model by FTY720 despite effective modulation of blood T cells 
Autoimmunity  2010;44(2):115-128.
FTY720 modulates lymphocyte trafficking through blood (PBL) and peripheral lymph nodes (PLN). Treatment with FTY720 causes retention of most blood lymphocytes in PLN. Long-term treatment can slow and/or prevent type 1 diabetes in the non-obese diabetic (NOD) mouse model. B and T cells are both affected by FTY720 binding to S1P1 (sphingosine-1-phosphate receptor 1). However, little has been done to elucidate which T cell subsets are differentially affected by FTY720 under healthy conditions, and how this affects disease pathogenesis in Type 1 Diabetes (T1D). In healthy C57BL/6J (B6) mice, total CD4+ and CD8+ T cell subsets were diminished by FTY720, but recently activated and memory subsets were spared and a constituted significantly higher percentage of remaining T cells in blood. FTY720 also lowered PBL counts in NOD mice, but less severely than in B6 mice. This is consistent with a different ratio of naïve, activated, and memory cells in NOD mice compared to B6 mice, as well as alterations in S1P1 and S1P (sphingosine-1-phosphate) levels in PBLs and blood of NOD mice, respectively. To address the functional consequences of PBL T cell depletion, we studied the effects of FTY720 on disease progression in a timed adoptive transfer model of T1D. Continuous treatment with FTY720 eliminated T1D if treatment was started before splenocyte transfer. FTY20 treatment started after disease onset slowed disease progression. The inability to fully suppress memory and effector T cell circulation may explain why FTY720 is only partially effective in the NOD adoptive transfer model of T1D.
PMCID: PMC2994995  PMID: 20695767
Type 1 diabetes; T cells; immunomodulation; FTY720; adoptive transfer
7.  FTY720 attenuates excitotoxicity and neuroinflammation 
FTY720 (fingolimod, Gilenya™), a structural analog of sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P), is the first oral drug approved for treatment the relapsing-remitting form of multiple sclerosis (MS), and its efficacy has been related to induced lymphopenia and consequent immunosuppression via modulation of S1P1 receptors (S1P1R). However, due to its lipophilic nature, FTY720 crosses the blood brain barrier (BBB) and could act directly on neural cells. In this study, we investigated the effectiveness of FTY720 as a neuroprotective agent using in vitro and in vivo models of excitotoxic neuronal death and examined if FTY720 exerts a direct action on neurons, or/and an indirect modulation of inflammation-mediated neurodegeneration as a possible mechanism of neuroprotection.
Primary neuronal and organotypic cortical cultures were treated with N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA) to induce excitotoxic cell death (measured by lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) assay or propidium iodide uptake, respectively). The effects of FTY720 treatment (10, 100 and 1,000 nM) on neuronal survival were examined. As an in vivo model of neuronal death and inflammation, we used intracerebroventricular (icv) administration of kainic acid (KA; 0.5 μg/2 μl) in Sprague–Dawley rats. FTY720 was applied icv (1 μg/2 μl), together with KA, plus intraperitoneally (ip; 1 mg/kg) 24 h before, and daily, until sacrifice 3 days after icv. Rats were evaluated for neurological score, neuronal loss in CA3 hippocampal region and activation of microglia at the lesion site. In addition, we tested FTY720 as a modulator of microglia responses using microglial cell cultures activated with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and its effects in stress signalling pathways using western blotting for p38 and JNK1/2 mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs).
FTY720 was able to reduce excitotoxic neuronal death in vitro. Moreover, in vivo repeated FTY720 administration attenuated KA-induced neurodegeneration and microgliosis at the CA3 lesion site. Furthermore, FTY720 negatively modulates p38 MAPK in LPS-activated microglia, whereas it had no effect on JNK1/2 activation.
These data support a role for FTY720 as a neuroprotective agent against excitotoxin-induced neuronal death and as a negative modulator of neuroinflammation by targeting the p38 MAPK stress signalling pathway in microglia.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12974-015-0308-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4429813  PMID: 25953296
FTY720; Neurons; NMDA; Kainic acid; Neuroinflammation; Microglia; LPS
8.  The Immunosuppressant FTY720 Prolongs Survival in a Mouse Model of Diet-induced Coronary Atherosclerosis and Myocardial Infarction 
FTY720, an analogue of sphingosine-1-phosphate, is cardioprotective during acute injury. Whether long-term FTY720 affords cardioprotection is unknown. Here we report the effects of oral FTY720 on ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) injury and in HypoE mice deficient in SR-BI receptor expression (ApoeR61h/h/SRB1–/– mice), a model of diet-induced coronary atherosclerosis and heart failure. We added FTY720 (0.3mg/kg/day) to the drinking water of C57BL/6J mice. After ex vivo cardiac I/R injury these mice had significantly improved left ventricular (LV) developed pressure and reduced infarct size compared with controls. Subsequently, ApoeR61h/h/SRB1–/– mice fed a high fat diet (HFD) for 4 weeks were treated or not with oral FTY720 (0.05mg/kg/day). This sharply reduced mortality (P<0.02) and resulted in better LV function and less LV remodeling compared with controls without reducing hypercholesterolemia and atherosclerosis. Oral FTY720 reduced the number of blood lymphocytes and increased the percentage of CD4+Foxp3+ T cells (Tregs) in the circulation, spleen and lymph nodes. FTY720-treated mice exhibited increased TGF-β and reduced IFN-γ expression in the heart. Also, CD4 expression was increased and strongly correlated with molecules involved in natural Treg activity, such as TGF-β and GITR. Our data suggest that long-term FTY720-treatment enhances LV function and increases longevity in mice with heart failure. These benefits resulted not from atheroprotection but from systemic immunosuppression and a moderate reduction of inflammation in the heart.
PMCID: PMC4574629  PMID: 24508946
FTY720; S1P; ApoE; coronary atherosclerosis; heart failure; cardioprotection; immunosuppression
9.  Treatment with the immunomodulator FTY720 does not promote spontaneous bacterial infections after experimental stroke in mice 
FTY720, an immunomodulator derived from a fungal metabolite which reduces circulating lymphocyte counts by increasing the homing of lymphocytes to the lymph nodes has recently gained interest in stroke research. The aim of this study was to evaluate the protective efficacy of FTY720 in cerebral ischemia in two different application paradigms and to gather first data on the effect of FTY720 on the rate of spontaneous bacterial infections in experimental stroke.
Middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO) in C57BL/6 mice (strain J, groups of 10 animals) was performed with two different durations of ischemia (90 min and 3 h) and FTY720 was applied 2 h after vessel occlusion to study the impact of reperfusion on the protective potency of FTY720. Lesion size was determined by TTC staining. Mice treated with FTY720 or vehicle were sacrificed 48 h after 90 min MCAO to determine the bacterial burden in lung and blood.
FTY720 1 mg/kg significantly reduced ischemic lesion size when administered 2 h after the onset of MCAO for 3 h (45.4 ± 22.7 mm3 vs. 84.7 ± 23.6 mm3 in control mice, p = 0.001) and also when administered after reperfusion, 2 h after the onset of MCAO for 90 min (31.1 ± 28.49 mm3 vs. 69.6 ± 27.2 mm3 in control mice, p = 0.013). Bacterial burden of lung homogenates 48 h after stroke did not increase in the group treated with the immunomodulator FTY720 while there was no spontaneous bacteremia 48 h after MCAO in treated and untreated animals.
Our results corroborate the experimental evidence of the protective effect of FTY720 seen in different rodent stroke models. Interestingly, we found no increase in bacterial lung infections even though FTY720 strongly reduces the number of circulating leukocytes.
PMCID: PMC3068098  PMID: 21388542
10.  Prevention of Diabetes by FTY720-Mediated Stabilization of Peri-Islet Tertiary Lymphoid Organs 
Diabetes  2010;59(6):1461-1468.
The nonobese diabetic (NOD) mouse is a well-established mouse model of spontaneous type 1 diabetes, which is characterized by an autoimmune destruction of the insulin-secreting pancreatic β-cells. In this study, we address the role of tertiary lymphoid organs (TLOs) that form in the pancreas of NOD mice during disease progression.
We developed a model designed to “lock” lymphocytes in the pancreatic lymph node (PLN) and pancreas by the use of FTY720, which blocks the exit of lymphocytes from lymph nodes. A combination of flow cytometry, immunofluorescence, and analysis of clinical scores was used to study the effects of long-term FTY720 treatment on TLO development and development of diabetes.
Continuous treatment of NOD mice with FTY720 prevented diabetes development even at a time of significant insulitis. Treatment withdrawal led to accelerated disease independent of the PLN. Interestingly, naive T-cells trafficked to and proliferated in the TLOs. In addition, morphological changes were observed that occurred during the development of the disease. Remarkably, although the infiltrates are not organized into T/B-cell compartments in 8-week-old mice, by 20 weeks of age, and in age-matched mice undergoing FTY720 treatment, the infiltrates showed a high degree of organization. However, in naturally and FTY720-induced diabetic mice, T/B-cell compartmentalization was lost.
Our data show that TLOs are established during diabetes development and suggest that islet destruction is due to a loss of TLO integrity, which may be prevented by FTY720 treatment.
PMCID: PMC2874707  PMID: 20299465
11.  The immunomodulator FTY720 and its phosphorylated derivative activate the Smad signalling cascade and upregulate connective tissue growth factor and collagen type IV expression in renal mesangial cells 
British Journal of Pharmacology  2005;147(2):164-174.
The immunomodulating agent FTY720 is a substrate for the sphingosine kinase and the phosphorylated form is able to bind to sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P) receptors. In this study, we show that exposure of renal mesangial cells to phospho-FTY720 leads to a rapid and transient activation of several protein kinase cascades, including the mitogen- and stress-activated protein kinases. The nonphosphorylated FTY720 also increased MAPK phosphorylation, but with a reduced potency and a more delayed time course. In addition, phospho-FTY720 and FTY720 are able to increase phosphorylation of Smad proteins which are classical members of the transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) signalling device, thus suggesting a crosstalk between FTY720 and TGF-β signalling.Pretreatment with the S1P3 receptor antagonist suramin inhibits FTY720 and phospho-FTY720-induced Smad phosphorylation, whereas pertussis toxin pretreatment, which blocks Gi/0 proteins, has no effect on Smad phosphorylation.Since TGF-β is a potent profibrotic cytokine in mesangial cells and upregulates the connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) and collagen as important hallmarks in the fibrotic sequelae, we investigated whether FTY720 and phospho-FTY720 are able to mimic these effects of TGF-β. Indeed, FTY720 and phospho-FTY720 markedly upregulate CTGF and collagen type IV protein expressions. In addition, the tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase-1 is transcriptionally activated by FTY720, whereas cytokine-induced matrix metalloproteinase-9 is down-regulated by FTY720.Depletion of the TGF-β receptor type II by the siRNA transfection technique blocks not only Smad phosphorylation but also CTGF upregulation. Similarly, Smad-4 depletion by siRNA transfection also abrogates CTGF upregulation induced by FTY720 and phospho-FTY720.In summary, our data show that FTY720 and phospho-FTY720 not only activate the Smad signalling cascade in mesangial cells, but also upregulate the expression of CTGF and collagen. These findings suggest that FTY720 may have additional effects besides the established immunomodulatory action and, importantly, a profibrotic activity has to be considered in future experimental approaches.
PMCID: PMC1615856  PMID: 16299553
FTY720; mesangial cell; Smad; TGF-β2; CTGF; collagen
12.  Single-dose FTY720 pharmacokinetics, food effect, and pharmacological responses in healthy subjects 
FTY720 is a sphingosine-1-phosphate receptor agonist that redirects lymphocytes from the circulation to lymph nodes without impairing lymphocyte function. It is being developed as an immunomodulator for the prevention of acute rejection after organ transplantation. This study was performed to provide guidance on administration with respect to meals and to measure pharmacologic responses in healthy subjects.
In this randomized, two-period, crossover study, 14 healthy subjects received placebo on day −1 of each period with baseline circadian measurements of lymphocyte count and heart rate. Subjects subsequently received a single 1 mg oral dose of FTY720 on day 1 under fasting conditions and after a high fat meal. Blood FTY720 concentrations, lymphocyte count, and supine heart rate were assessed over an 8 day period after each FTY720 dose. The effect of food on FTY720 pharmacokinetics was assessed by standard bioequivalence testing.
Both the peak concentration (0.65 ± 0.17 vs 0.64 ± 0.18 ng ml−1) and total exposure (AUC 149 ± 65 vs 139 ± 43 ng ml−1 h) did not differ significantly between fasting and fed states, respectively. The corresponding fed/fasting ratios and 90% confidence intervals were 1.00 (0.86, 1.17) for Cmax and 0.98 (0.86, 1.11) for AUC. Under both treatment conditions peripheral blood lymphocyte count decreased from baseline by 38 ± 9% over the first 2 days postdose and then increased towards predose values over the subsequent week. Whereas a circadian rhythm in supine heart rate was preserved in the presence of FTY720, the heart rate vs time curve was shifted downwards by 10% over the first day postdose and then recovered to prestudy values by days 3–5 postdose. These changes were asymptomatic.
Single 1 mg doses of FTY720 were well tolerated in healthy subjects and elicited a moderate decrease in peripheral blood lymphocyte count and a transient decrease in heart rate consistent with its pharmacological mode of action. FTY720 may be administered without regard to the timing of meals or their fat content.
PMCID: PMC1884502  PMID: 15089811
food; FTY720; pharmacodynamics; pharmacokinetics
13.  Treatment with a sphingosine analog after the inception of house dust mite-induced airway inflammation alleviates key features of experimental asthma 
Respiratory Research  2015;16(1):7.
In vivo phosphorylation of sphingosine analogs with their ensuing binding and activation of their cell-surface sphingosine-1-phosphate receptors is regarded as the main immunomodulatory mechanism of this new class of drugs. Prophylactic treatment with sphingosine analogs interferes with experimental asthma by impeding the migration of dendritic cells to draining lymph nodes. However, whether these drugs can also alleviate allergic airway inflammation after its onset remains to be determined. Herein, we investigated to which extent and by which mechanisms the sphingosine analog AAL-R interferes with key features of asthma in a murine model during ongoing allergic inflammation induced by Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus.
BALB/c mice were exposed to either D. pteronyssinus or saline, intranasally, once-daily for 10 consecutive days. Mice were treated intratracheally with either AAL-R, its pre-phosphorylated form AFD-R, or the vehicle before every allergen challenge over the last four days, i.e. after the onset of allergic airway inflammation. On day 11, airway responsiveness to methacholine was measured; inflammatory cells and cytokines were quantified in the airways; and the numbers and/or viability of T cells, B cells and dendritic cells were assessed in the lungs and draining lymph nodes.
AAL-R decreased airway hyperresponsiveness induced by D. pteronyssinus by nearly 70%. This was associated with a strong reduction of IL-5 and IL-13 levels in the airways and with a decreased eosinophilic response. Notably, the lung CD4+ T cells were almost entirely eliminated by AAL-R, which concurred with enhanced apoptosis/necrosis in that cell population. This inhibition occurred in the absence of dendritic cell number modulation in draining lymph nodes. On the other hand, the pre-phosphorylated form AFD-R, which preferentially acts on cell-surface sphingosine-1-phosphate receptors, was relatively impotent at enhancing cell death, which led to a less efficient control of T cell and eosinophil responses in the lungs.
Airway delivery of the non-phosphorylated sphingosine analog, but not its pre-phosphorylated counterpart, is highly efficient at controlling the local T cell response after the onset of allergic airway inflammation. The mechanism appears to involve local induction of lymphocyte apoptosis/necrosis, while mildly affecting dendritic cell and T cell accumulation in draining lymph nodes.
PMCID: PMC4330646  PMID: 25645346
FTY720; Fingolimod; Gilenya; Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus; Apoptosis; Dendritic cells; CD4+ T cells; Asthma; S1P; AAL-R; AAL-S; Sphingosine
14.  Dual effects of daily FTY720 on human astrocytes in vitro: relevance for neuroinflammation 
FTY720 (fingolimod, Gilenya™) is a daily oral therapy for multiple sclerosis that readily accesses the central nervous system (CNS). FTY720 is a structural analog to the sphingolipid sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) and is a cognate ligand for the S1P G-protein coupled receptors (S1PR). Studies in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis using mice with conditionally deleted S1P1R from astrocytes indicate that one beneficial effect of FTY720 in this model is via downregulating external receptors, which inhibits responses induced by the natural ligand. Another proposed effect of FTY720 on neuroinflammation is its ability to maintain persistent signaling in cells via internalized S1P1R resulting in functional responses that include suppressing intracellular calcium release. We used human fetal astrocytes to investigate potential dual inhibitory- and function-inducing effects of daily FTY720 on responses relevant to neuroinflammation. For the inhibitory effects, we used signaling and proliferation induced by the natural ligand S1P. For the function-inducing responses, we measured inhibition of intracellular calcium release stimulated by the proinflammatory cytokine, interleukin (IL)-1β.
Astrocytes derived from human fetal CNS specimens and maintained in dissociated cultures were exposed to 100 nM of the biologically active form of FTY720 over a dosing regimen that ranged from a single exposure (with or without washout after 1 h) to daily exposures up to 5 days. Responses measured include: phosphorylation of extracellular-signal-regulated kinases (pERK1/2) by Western blotting, Ki-67 immunolabeling for cell proliferation, IL-1β-induced calcium release by ratiometric fluorescence, and cytokine/chemokine (IL-6, CXCL10) secretions by ELISA.
We observed that a single addition of FTY720 inhibited subsequent S1PR ligand-induced pERK1/2 signaling for >24 h. Daily FTY720 treatments (3-5 days) maintained this effect together with a loss of proliferative responses to the natural ligand S1P. Repeated FTY720 dosing concurrently maintained a functional cell response as measured by the inhibition of intracellular calcium release when stimulated by the cytokine IL-1β. Recurrent FTY720 treatments did not inhibit serum- or IL-1β-induced pERK1/2. The secretions of IL-6 and CXCL10 in response to IL-1β were unaffected by FTY720 treatment(s).
Our results indicate that daily FTY720 exposures may regulate specific neuroinflammatory responses by desensitizing astrocytes to external S1PR stimuli while sustaining cellular influences that are independent of new surface S1PR activation.
PMCID: PMC3621211  PMID: 23509960
Astrocytes; FTY720; Neuroinflammation; Sphingosine-1-phosphate
15.  Local delivery of FTY720 accelerates cranial allograft incorporation and bone formation 
Cell and tissue research  2011;347(3):553-566.
Endogenous stem cell recruitment to the site of skeletal injury is key to enhanced osseous remodeling and neovascularization. To this end, this study utilized a novel bone allograft coating of poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLAGA) to sustain the release of FTY720, a selective agonist for sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P) receptors, from calvarial allografts. Uncoated allografts, vehicle-coated, low dose FTY720 in PLAGA (1:200 w:w) and high dose FTY720 in PLAGA (1:40) were implanted into critical size calvarial bone defects. The ability of local FTY720 delivery to promote angiogenesis, maximize osteoinductivity and improve allograft incorporation by recruitment of bone progenitor cells from surrounding soft tissues and microcirculation was evaluated. FTY720 bioactivity after encapsulation and release was confirmed with sphingosine kinase 2 assays. HPLC-MS quantified about 50% loaded FTY720 release of the total encapsulated drug (4.5 µg) after 5 days. Following 2 weeks of defect healing, FTY720 delivery led to statistically significant increases in bone volumes compared to controls, with total bone volume increases for uncoated, coated, low FTY720 and high FTY720 of 5.98, 3.38, 7.2 and 8.9 mm3, respectively. The rate and extent of enhanced bone growth persisted through week 4 but, by week 8, increases in bone formation in FTY720 groups were no longer statistically significant. However, micro-computed tomography (microCT) of contrast enhanced vascular ingrowth (MICROFIL®) and histological analysis showed enhanced integration as well as directed bone growth in both high and low dose FTY720 groups compared to controls.
PMCID: PMC3464023  PMID: 21863314
Bone tissue engineering; Drug delivery; Angiogenesis; Osseointegration; Massive Allograft
16.  The Immunosuppressant FTY720 (Fingolimod) enhances Glycosaminoglycan depletion in articular cartilage 
FTY720 (Fingolimod) is a novel immunosuppressive drug investigated in clinical trials for organ transplantation and multiple sclerosis. It acts as a functional sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) receptor antagonist, thereby inhibiting the egress of lymphocytes from secondary lymphoid organs. As S1P is able to prevent IL-1beta induced cartilage degradation, we examined the direct impact of FTY720 on cytokine induced cartilage destruction.
Bovine chondrocytes were treated with the bioactive phosphorylated form of FTY720 (FTY720-P) in combination with IL-1beta or TNF-alpha. Expression of MMP-1,-3.-13, iNOS and ADAMTS-4,-5 and COX-2 was evaluated using quantitative real-time PCR and western blot. Glycosaminoglycan depletion from cartilage explants was determined using a 1,9-dimethylene blue assay and safranin O staining.
FTY720-P significantly reduced IL-1beta and TNF-alpha induced expression of iNOS. In contrast FTY720-P increased MMP-3 and ADAMTS-5 mRNA expression. Furthermore depletion of glycosaminoglycan from cartilage explants by IL-1beta and TNF-alpha was significantly enhanced by FTY720-P in an MMP-3 dependent manner.
Our results suggest that FTY720 may enhance cartilage degradation in pro-inflammatory environment.
PMCID: PMC3258222  PMID: 22151889
chondrocyte; fingolimod; FTY720; interleukin-1β; tumor necrosis factor-α; inducible nitric oxide synthase; glycosaminoglycan
17.  (S)-FTY720-Vinylphosphonate, an Analogue of the Immunosuppressive Agent FTY720, Is a Pan-antagonist of Sphingosine 1-Phosphate GPCR Signaling and Inhibits Autotaxin Activity 
Cellular signalling  2010;22(10):1543-1553.
FTY720 (Fingolimod™), a synthetic analogue of sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P), activates four of the five EDG-family S1P receptors and is in a phase-III clinical study for the treatment of multiple sclerosis. (S)-FTY720-phosphate (FTY720-P) causes S1P1 receptor internalization and targeting to the proteasomal degradative pathway, and thus acts as a functional antagonist of S1P1 by depleting the functional S1P1 receptor from the plasma membrane. Here we describe the pharmacological characterization of two unsaturated phosphonate enantiomers of FTY720, (R)- and (S)-FTY720-vinylphosphonate. (R)-FTY720-vinylphosphonate was a full agonist of S1P1 (EC50 20 ± 3 nM). In contrast, the (S) enantiomer failed to activate any of the five S1P GPCRs and was a full antagonist of S1P1,3,4 (Ki 384 nM, 39 nM, and 1190 nM, respectively) and a partial antagonist of S1P2, and S1P5. Both enantiomers dose-dependently inhibited lysophospholipase D (recombinant autotaxin) with Ki values in the low micromolar range, although with different enzyme kinetic mechanisms. When injected into mice, both enantiomers caused transient peripheral lymphopenia. (R)- and (S)-FTY720-vinylphosphonates activated ERK1/2, AKT, and exerted an antiapoptotic effect in camptothecin-treated IEC-6 intestinal epithelial cells, which primarily express S1P2 transcripts and traces of S1P5. (S)-FTY720-vinylphosphonate is the first pan-antagonist of S1P receptors and offers utility in probing S1P responses in vitro and in vivo. The biological effects of the (R)- and (S)-FTY720-vinylphosphonate analogues underscore the complexity of FTY720 cellular targets.
PMCID: PMC3446790  PMID: 20566326
FTY720; sphingosine 1-phosphate; lysophosphatidic acid; autotaxin; lysophospholipase D; lymphocyte egress; EDG receptor; inhibitor
18.  Sphingosine 1-Phosphate Receptor 1 as a Useful Target for Treatment of Multiple Sclerosis 
Pharmaceuticals  2012;5(5):514-528.
Sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P), a lysophospholipid mediator, is generated from sphingosine by sphingosine kinases and binds five known cell surface receptors. S1P receptor 1 (S1P1) plays an essential role in lymphocyte egress from secondary lymphoid organs (SLO), as evinced by the inability of lymphocytes to exit from the SLO in mice lacking lymphocytic S1P1. Fingolimod hydrochloride (FTY720) is a first-in-class, orally active, S1P receptor modulator with a structure closely related to sphingosine. FTY720 was first synthesized by chemical modification of a natural product, myriocin. FTY720 is effectively converted to an active metabolite, FTY720 phosphate (FTY720-P) by sphingosine kinases. FTY720-P shows high affinity to 4 of the S1P receptors (S1P1, S1P3, S1P4, and S1P5). In particular, FTY720-P strongly induces internalization and degradation of S1P1, inhibits S1P responsiveness of lymphocytes in the SLO, and acts as a functional antagonist at lymphocytic S1P1. Consequently, FTY720 inhibits S1P1-dependent lymphocyte egress from the SLO to decrease circulation of lymphocytes including autoreactive Th17 cells and is highly effective in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), an animal model of multiple sclerosis (MS). Because FTY720 shows a superior efficacy in relapsing remitting MS patients compared to intramuscular interferon-β-1a (Avonex®), S1P1 is presumed to be a useful target for the therapy of MS.
PMCID: PMC3763654  PMID: 24281561
sphingosine 1-phasphate (S1P); S1P receptor 1 (S1P1); fingolimod (FTY720); lymphocyte egress; immunomodulator; experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE); multiple sclerosis (MS); therapy
19.  Pathway specific modulation of S1P1 receptor signalling in rat and human astrocytes 
British Journal of Pharmacology  2013;169(5):1114-1129.
Background and Purpose
The sphingosine 1-phosphate receptor subtype 1 (S1P1R) is modulated by phosphorylated FTY720 (pFTY720), which causes S1P1R internalization preventing lymphocyte migration thus limiting autoimmune response. Studies indicate that internalized S1P1Rs continue to signal, maintaining an inhibition of cAMP, thus raising question whether the effects of pFTY720 are due to transient initial agonism, functional antagonism and/or continued signalling. To further investigate this, the current study first determined if continued S1P1R activation is pathway specific.
Experimental Approach
Using human and rat astrocyte cultures, the effects of S1P1R activation on cAMP, pERK and Ca2+ signalling was investigated. In addition, to examine the role of S1P1R redistribution on these events, a novel biologic (MNP301) that prevented pFTY720-mediated S1P1R redistribution was engineered.
Key Results
The data showed that pFTY720 induced long-lasting S1P1R redistribution and continued cAMP signalling in rat astrocytes. In contrast, pFTY720 induced a transient increase of Ca2+ in astrocytes and subsequent antagonism of Ca2+ signalling. Notably, while leaving pFTY720-induced cAMP signalling intact, the novel MNP301 peptide attenuated S1P1R-mediated Ca2+ and pERK signalling in cultured rat astrocytes.
Conclusions and Implications
These findings suggested that pFTY720 causes continued cAMP signalling that is not dependent on S1P1R redistribution and induces functional antagonism of Ca2+ signalling after transient stimulation. To our knowledge, this is the first report demonstrating that pFTY720 causes continued signalling in one pathway (cAMP) versus functional antagonism of another pathway (Ca2+) and which also suggests that redistributed S1P1Rs may have differing signalling properties from those expressed at the surface.
PMCID: PMC3696333  PMID: 23587004
sphingosine 1-phosphate receptor subtype 1 (S1P1R); pFTY720; astrocytes; receptor signalling; Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
20.  CC Chemokine Receptor 7–dependent and –independent Pathways for Lymphocyte Homing 
The Journal of Experimental Medicine  2001;194(12):1875-1881.
Cognate interaction of chemokine receptor CCR7 on lymphocytes with its ligands CCL19 and CCL21 expressed on high endothelial venules (HEVs) is essential for effective migration of T and B cells across HEVs into secondary lymphoid organs. Plt mice, which lack expression of CCL19 and CCL21-ser, both ligands for CCR7 on HEVs, as well as CCR7-deficient mice, have a defective cell migration and reduced homing of lymphocytes. FTY720, a novel immunosuppressant, causes a reduction of lymphocytes in peripheral blood and tissues and their sequestration into lymphoid tissues. In this study we demonstrate that FTY720 rescues the homing defect in both CCR7−/− mice and plt mice. After FTY720 treatment, the number of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells as well as B cells in peripheral blood is reduced while pertussis toxin–sensitive homing into peripheral lymph nodes, mesenteric lymph node, and Peyer's patches is increased. Immunohistology demonstrates that FTY720 enables these cells to enter lymphoid tissue through HEVs. Thus, our data suggest an alternative G-αi-dependent, CCR7-CCL19/CCL21-independent mechanism for lymphocyte homing through HEVs which is strongly augmented in the presence of FTY720.
PMCID: PMC2193576  PMID: 11748287
lymphocyte migration; chemokine receptor; T cell; B cell; lymphoid organs
21.  Interrelationship between Dendritic Cell Trafficking and Francisella tularensis Dissemination following Airway Infection 
PLoS Pathogens  2008;4(11):e1000211.
Francisella tularensis, the etiological agent of the inhalation tularemia, multiplies in a variety of cultured mammalian cells. Nevertheless, evidence for its in vivo intracellular residence is less conclusive. Dendritic cells (DC) that are adapted for engulfing bacteria and migration towards lymphatic organs could serve as potential targets for bacterial residence and trafficking. Here, we focus on the in vivo interactions of F. tularensis with DC following airway infection of mice. Lethal airway infection of mice with the live vaccine strain (LVS) results in trafficking of a CD11bhigh/CD11cmed/autofluorescencelow DC subset from the respiratory tract to the draining mediastinal lymph node (MdLN). Simultaneously, a rapid, massive bacterial colonization of the MdLN occurs, characterized by large bacterial foci formation. Analysis of bacteria in the MdLN revealed a major population of extracellular bacteria, which co-exists with a substantial fraction of intracellular bacteria. The intracellular bacteria are viable and reside in cells sorted for DC marker expression. Moreover, in vivo vital staining experiments indicate that most of these intracellular bacteria (∼75%) reside in cells that have migrated from the airways to the MdLN after infection. The correlation between DC and bacteria accumulation in the MdLN was further demonstrated by manipulating DC migration to the MdLN through two independent pathways. Impairment of DC migration to the MdLN, either by a sphingosine-1-phosphate receptor agonist (FTY720) or by the D prostanoid receptor 1 agonist (BW245C), resulted in reduced bacterial colonization of MdLN. Moreover, BW245C treatment delayed the onset of morbidity and the time to death of the infected mice. Taken together, these results suggest that DC can serve as an inhabitation niche for F. tularensis in the early stages of infection, and that DC trafficking plays a role in pathogen dissemination. This underscores the therapeutic potential of DC migration impairing drugs in tularemia treatment.
Author Summary
The high infectivity of Francisella tularensis via inhalation led to its classification as a Category-A bio-threat agent and renewed the interest in this pathogen. Here, we characterize early events in respiratory tularemia, which could be instrumental in designing new therapeutic approaches. We focus on the interaction of F. tularensis with dendritic cells, which serve as first-line sentinels for invading bacteria and are expected to be pivotal in initiation of host protective response. In this study, we show that lethal airway infection of mice with F. tularensis results in accumulation of both bacteria and dendritic cells in the draining lymph node, and that viable bacteria can be detected in dendritic cells that have been recently imported from the airways. The correlation between trafficking of dendritic cell and bacteria is further substantiated by demonstrating that impairment of dendritic cell migration to the draining lymph node through two independent pathways results in decreased bacterial accumulation in the lymph node. Taken together, our observations suggest that F. tularensis actually harnesses dendritic cells to facilitate bacterial dissemination and to enhance host invasion. These findings call for examination of the therapeutic potential of drugs that impair dendritic cell migration as countermeasures for tularemia.
PMCID: PMC2582141  PMID: 19023422
22.  Lymphocyte Modulation with FTY720 Improves Hemorrhagic Shock Survival in Swine 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e34224.
The inflammatory response to severe traumatic injury results in significant morbidity and mortality. Lymphocytes have recently been identified as critical mediators of the early innate immune response to ischemia-reperfusion injury. Experimental manipulation of lymphocytes following hemorrhagic shock may prevent secondary immunologic injury in surgical and trauma patients. The objective of this study is to evaluate the lymphocyte sequestration agent FTY720 as an immunomodulator following experimental hemorrhagic shock in a swine liver injury model. Yorkshire swine were anesthetized and underwent a grade III liver injury with uncontrolled hemorrhage to induce hemorrhagic shock. Experimental groups were treated with a lymphocyte sequestration agent, FTY720, (n = 9) and compared to a vehicle control group (n = 9). Animals were observed over a 3 day survival period after hemorrhage. Circulating total leukocyte and neutrophil counts were measured. Central lymphocytes were evaluated with mesenteric lymph node and spleen immunohistochemistry (IHC) staining for CD3. Lung tissue infiltrating neutrophils were analyzed with myeloperoxidase (MPO) IHC staining. Relevant immune-related gene expression from liver tissue was quantified using RT-PCR. The overall survival was 22.2% in the vehicle control and 66.7% in the FTY720 groups (p = 0.081), and reperfusion survival (period after hemorrhage) was 25% in the vehicle control and 75% in the FTY720 groups (p = 0.047). CD3+ lymphocytes were significantly increased in mesenteric lymph nodes and spleen in the FTY720 group compared to vehicle control, indicating central lymphocyte sequestration. Lymphocyte disruption significantly decreased circulating and lung tissue infiltrating neutrophils, and decreased expression of liver immune-related gene expression in the FTY720 treated group. There were no observed infectious or wound healing complications. Lymphocyte sequestration with FTY720 improves survival in experimental hemorrhagic shock using a porcine liver injury model. These results support a novel and clinically relevant lymphocyte immunomodulation strategy to ameliorate secondary immune injury in hemorrhagic shock.
PMCID: PMC3340389  PMID: 22558085
23.  B Lymphocytes Exit Lymph Nodes through Cortical Lymphatic Sinusoids Near to Lymph Node Follicles by a Mechanism Independent of S1P-Mediated Chemotaxis 
Immunity  2009;30(3):434-446.
Sphingosine-1 Phosphate (S1P) helps mediate lymphocyte egress from lymph nodes, yet significant mechanistic questions remain. Here we show that B lymphocyte egress sites exist close to lymph node follicles. Recent B cell emigrants localize towards follicle centers, while longer-term residents tend towards cortical sinusoids. Exiting B lymphocytes squeeze through apparent portals in the lymphatic endothelium. Treatment with the S1P receptor agonist FTY720 empties the cortical sinusoids of lymphocytes, blocks lymphatic endothelial penetration, and displaces B lymphocytes into the T cell zone. S1P3−/− B cells, which lack chemoattractant responses to S1P, transit lymph nodes normally, while Gnai2−/− B cells, which have impaired responses to chemokines and S1P, transit more rapidly than do wild type cells. This study identifies a major site of B lymphocyte lymph node egress, shows that FTY720 treatment blocks passage through the cortical lymphatic endothelium, and argues against a functional role for S1P chemotaxis in B lymphocyte egress.
PMCID: PMC2744325  PMID: 19230723
24.  FTY720 Inhibits Tumor Growth and Enhances the Tumor-Suppressive Effect of Topotecan in Neuroblastoma by Interfering With the Sphingolipid Signaling Pathway 
Pediatric blood & cancer  2013;60(9):10.1002/pbc.24564.
Neuroblastoma (NB) is the most common extra-cranial solid tumor in childhood. Poor outcomes for children with advanced disease underscore the need for novel therapeutic strategies. FTY720, an immunomodulating drug approved for multiple sclerosis, has been investigated in oncology with promising preclinical activities. To date, its effect in NB has not been explored. Herein we describe our preclinical experience with FTY720, alone or in combination with topotecan, and its putative mechanism of action in NB.
MTT assay was performed to assess the effect of FTY720 on cell viability. A NB xenograft model was employed to assess the efficacy of FTY720 on tumor growth. Quantitative real-time PCR and Western blot were employed to determine changes of mRNA and protein expression, respectively. Liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry was used to measure sphingolipid levels.
FTY720, but not FTY720-P induced NB cell death. FTY720 inhibited the growth of NB xenografts and enhanced the tumor-suppressive effect of topotecan both in vitro and in vivo. FTY720 significantly inhibited sphingosine kinase 2 (SphK2) mRNA and protein expression in NB cells. Pro-apoptotic sphingosine levels were increased in NB cells and NB xenografts treated with FTY720. FTY720-induced cell death was caspase-independent and involved the dephosphorylation of Akt and BAD at Ser136.
Our data demonstrate that FTY720 has potent preclinical anti-cancer activity in NB. Its unique death signaling mechanism, interference with the sphingolipid pathway, acts cooperatively with that of topotecan, suggesting that FTY720 related molecules may be useful in NB treatment.
PMCID: PMC3751174  PMID: 23704073
apoptosis; FTY720; neuroblastoma; sphingosine; sphingosine kinase 2
25.  Sphingosine and FTY720 are potent inhibitors of the transient receptor potential melastatin 7 (TRPM7) channels 
British Journal of Pharmacology  2013;168(6):1294-1312.
Background and Purpose
Transient receptor potential melastatin 7 (TRPM7) is a unique channel kinase which is crucial for various physiological functions. However, the mechanism by which TRPM7 is gated and modulated is not fully understood. To better understand how modulation of TRPM7 may impact biological processes, we investigated if TRPM7 can be regulated by the phospholipids sphingosine (SPH) and sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P), two potent bioactive sphingolipids that mediate a variety of physiological functions. Moreover, we also tested the effects of the structural analogues of SPH, N,N-dimethyl-D-erythro-sphingosine (DMS), ceramides and FTY720 on TRPM7.
Experimental Approach
HEK293 cells stably expressing TRPM7 were used for whole-cell, single-channel and macropatch current recordings. Cardiac fibroblasts were used for native TRPM7 current recording.
Key Results
SPH potently inhibited TRPM7 in a concentration-dependent manner, whereas S1P and other ceramides did not produce noticeable effects. DMS also markedly inhibited TRPM7. Moreover, FTY720, an immunosuppressant and the first oral drug for treatment of multiple sclerosis, inhibited TRPM7 with a similar potency to that of SPH. In contrast, FTY720-P has no effect on TRPM7. It appears that SPH and FTY720 inhibit TRPM7 by reducing channel open probability. Furthermore, endogenous TRPM7 in cardiac fibroblasts was markedly inhibited by SPH, DMS and FTY720.
Conclusions and Implications
This is the first study demonstrating that SPH and FTY720 are potent inhibitors of TRPM7. Our results not only provide a new modulation mechanism of TRPM7, but also suggest that TRPM7 may serve as a direct target of SPH and FTY720, thereby mediating S1P-independent physiological/pathological functions of SPH and FTY720.
Linked Article
This article is commented on by Rohacs, pp. 1291–1293 of this issue. To view this commentary visit
PMCID: PMC3596637  PMID: 23145923
TRPM7; sphingosine; FTY720; TRP channels; cardiac fibroblasts

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