Fate of lymphocytes after withdrawal of tofacitinib treatment

Elisa Piscianz, Erica Valencic, Eva Cuzzoni, Sara De Iudicibus, Elisa De Lorenzo, Giuliana Decorti, Alberto Tommasini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Tofacitinib (Tofa) is an inhibitor of Janus Kinase 3, developed for the treatment of autoimmune diseases and for the prevention of transplant rejection. Due to its selective action on proliferating cells, Tofa can offer a way to block T cell activation, without toxic effects on resting cells. However, few studies have investigated the effects of Tofa on lymphocyte activation in vitro. Our aim was to study the action of Tofa on different lymphocyte subsets after in vitro stimulation and to track the behaviour of treated cells after interruption of the treatment. Peripheral blood lymphocytes were stimulated in vitro with mitogen and treated with two concentrations of Tofa. After a first period in culture, cells were washed and further incubated for an additional time. Lymphocyte subsets, activation phenotype and proliferation were assessed at the different time frames. As expected, Tofa was able to reduce the activation and proliferation of lymphocytes in the first four days of treatment. In addition the drug led to a relative decrease of Natural Killer, B cells and CD8 T cells compared to CD4 T cells. However, treated cells were still viable after the first period in culture and begun to proliferate, strikingly, in a dose dependent manner when the drug was removed from the environment by replacing the culture medium. This novel data does not necessarily predict a similar behaviour in vivo, but can warn about the clinical use of this drug when a discontinuation of treatment with Tofa is considered for any reason.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere85463
JournalPLoS One
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 9 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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