Besides a prominent mononuclear cell infiltration of the islets of Langerhans, nonobese diabetic (NOD) mice also show massive cellular infiltrates of the submandibular and lacrimal glands concomitant with histological signs of tissue damage. To obtain insights into the mechanisms operative during the initiation and progression of tissue damage, we followed by in situ hybridization the appearance of cells containing mRNA of the gene encoding the proinflammatory cytokine TNF-alpha in the cellular infiltrates. Cells expressing TNF-alpha are mainly located in infiltrates, are absent in nonaffected glands, and are preferentially found among CD4 T cells. Secretion of TNF-alpha by gland-infiltrating cells was confirmed by an ELISPOT procedure. Direct evidence for an instrumental role of TNF-alpha in initiation and progression of submandibular and lacrimal gland infiltration is provided by the observed significant reduction in the extent of infiltration in nonobese diabetic mice transgenic for a soluble TNF receptor p55 fused to the Fc part of human IgG3. This protection from infiltration is paralleled by decreased expression of the adhesion molecules ICAM-1 and VCAM-1 in submandibular and lacrimal glands. These data suggest a central role of TNF-alpha in the initiation and progression of autoimmune tissue destruction of salivary glands and indicate beneficial effects of soluble TNF receptors in the treatment of organ-specific autoimmune diseases.
R E Hunger, S Müller, J A Laissue, M W Hess, C Carnaud, I Garcia, C Mueller