The injection of DBA/2 (D2) spleen cells into (C57BL/6 x DBA/2)F1 mice (BDF1) induces a chronic, autoimmune graft-vs-host disease (GVHD) that is characterized by: increased production of Th2-associated cytokines; increased levels of serum Ig, including IgE; increased production of IgG anti-DNA Abs; and no detectable antihost CTL activity. Experiments were performed to determine if treatment with the cytokine IL-12, which stimulates the production of Th1-associated cytokines and inhibits Th2-associated cytokine production, would inhibit humoral autoimmunity in this system. Treatment of mice with 100 ng IL-12 per day for 5 days, starting on the day of cell transfer, resulted in: 1) near complete suppression of autoantibody production; 2) decreased serum Ig levels; 3) detectable donor antihost CTL activity; and 4) greatly reduced numbers of host splenic B and T cells. Treatment of mice with a neutralizing anti-IFN-gamma mAb did not reverse these effects of IL-12. Thirty nanograms per day resulted in reduced numbers of host B cells and reduced serum anti-DNA levels, but no detectable antihost CTL activity. IL-12 treatment initiated 7 days after cell transfer had little effect on the development of autoimmune GVHD. These observations suggest the following: 1) IL-12 inhibits humoral autoimmunity in a murine parent-->F1 GVHD model by inducing the activation of host-reactive CTLs that reject the host immune system. 2) This effect is IFN-gamma-independent. 3) IL-12 needs to be present during the initial differentiation of T cells in this system to have this effect.

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