The recruitment of T lymphocytes during diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis is regulated by stimulation of the chemokine receptors expressed by these cells. This study was designed to assess the potential of a CXCR3-specific small-molecule agonist to inhibit the migration of activated human T cells toward multiple chemokines. Further experiments defined the molecular mechanism for this anti-inflammatory activity. Analysis in vitro demonstrated agonist induced internalization of both CXCR3 and other chemokine receptors coexpressed by CXCR3+ T cells. Unlike chemokine receptor-specific antagonists, the CXCR3 agonist inhibited migration of activated T cells toward the chemokine mixture in synovial fluid from patients with active rheumatoid arthritis. A humanized mouse air-pouch model showed that intravenous treatment with the CXCR3 agonist prevented inflammatory migration of activated human T cells toward this synovial fluid. A potential mechanism for this action was defined by demonstration that the CXCR3 agonist induces receptor cross-phosphorylation within CXCR3-CCR5 heterodimers on the surface of activated T cells. This study shows that generalized chemokine receptor desensitization can be induced by specific stimulation of a single chemokine receptor on the surface of activated human T cells. A humanized mouse model was used to demonstrate that this receptor desensitization inhibits the inflammatory response that is normally produced by the chemokines present in synovial fluid from patients with active rheumatoid arthritis
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