The effect of auranofin on granule protein secretion from neutrophils was investigated by a haemolytic plaque assay which can detect release of lactoferrin and myeloperoxidase from single adherent neutrophils. Lactoferrin secretion in response to N-formyl-methionyl-leucyl-phenylalanine (fMLP) was enhanced at low (0.25-1.0 micrograms/ml) and inhibited at high concentrations of auranofin (50% inhibition (IC50) at 3.7 micrograms/ml). A similar biphasic effect was also seen on degranulation mediated by granulocyte-macrophage colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF) (IC50 1.8 micrograms/ml). In contrast, exocytosis mediated by tumour necrosis factor was inhibited even at low concentrations of auranofin (IC50 0.6 micrograms/ml). Secretion induced by phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate and A23187 was only inhibited at very high auranofin concentrations (IC50 10 and 8 micrograms/ml respectively). The effect of auranofin on myeloperoxidase secretion was also assessed and the IC50 values for the respective agents were as follows: tumour necrosis factor 0.7 micrograms/ml, fMLP 1.6 micrograms/ml, and phorbol myristate acetate 7.6 micrograms/ml. When neutrophils were preincubated with auranofin (4 micrograms/ml) and then exposed to fMLP, tumour necrosis factor, or GM-CSF in the absence of auranofin, lactoferrin release was enhanced if the preincubation time was short (one to three minutes) and inhibited when the time of preincubation was longer. It was concluded that auranofin, at concentrations achieved in the serum of patients, is a potent inhibitor of cytokine induced release of granule proteins from adherent neutrophils. This finding may be of clinical importance and shed light on the mechanism by which auranofin acts in rheumatoid arthritis.
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