We investigated the effects of bendamustine on B cell functions and explored potential clinical applications of the drugs to autoimmune diseases. Proliferation of Ramos cells, a human B cell line, was significantly inhibited by 25–100 μM of bendamustine in a dose-dependent manner. Concordantly, IgM secretion from Ramos cells was significantly inhibited at these concentrations by up to 70%. Interestingly, however, the production and secretion of interleukin-10 (IL-10) were dramatically (at least > 10-fold) increased by bendamustine at growth inhibitory concentrations. Exploration of the molecular mechanism of IL-10 production revealed that bendamustine enhanced the phosphorylation of p38 MAP kinase. Further, Sp1 was identified as a downstream transcription factor, and the inhibition of p38 MAP kinase and Sp1 with their inhibitors led to the abrogation of bendamustine-induced IL-10 production and the DNA binding of Sp1. Importantly, when PBMC from healthy donors were cultured with bendamustine at the concentration of 30 μM, under the stimulation with an anti-IgM antibody, an anti-CD40 antibody, recombinant human IL-21 (rhIL-21) and recombinant human soluble BAFF (rhsBAFF), IL-10 production by B cells (CD20+CD4-CD8-CD14-) among peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) was significantly enhanced by adding bendamustine. These results collectively suggest that the p38 MAP kinase-Sp1 pathway plays a crucial role in bendamustine-induced IL-10 production by B cells. Our findings suggest a novel therapeutic possibility for autoimmune diseases through the upregulation of IL-10 which has an anti-inflammatory effects.
ASJC Scopus subject areas