In our laboratory we observed that solutions of levamisole (LMS) stored at 4°C consistently enhanced the lymphocyte proliferation response to concanavalin A (Con A) more than freshly prepared solutions did. To determine if the increased immunopotentiation observed with the stored solutions of LMS was due to products formed from LMS, we assessed the stability of LMS when stored at 4 or 37°C at pH 6, 7, 7.5 and 8. Analysis of the various solutions by high pressure liquid chromatography demonstrated that LMS decomposes during storage in neutral and alkaline conditions to form three products. The formation of the products was accelerated by increasing the temperature from 4 to 37°C. The three degradation products were purified by preparative high pressure liquid chromatography and their structures determined by mass spectrometry, infrared spectrometry and homo- and heteronuclear two dimensional nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. The degradation products, denoted as No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3, based on their high pressure liquid chromatography retention times, were identified as: No. 1, 3-(2-mercaptoethyl)-5-phenylimidazolidine-2-one; No. 2, 6-phenyl-2,3-dihydroimidazo (2,1-b) thiazole and No. 3, bis [3-(2-oxo-5-phenylimidazolidin-1-yl) ethyl] disulfide. Product 2 significantly enhanced murine lymphocyte proliferation responses to concanavalin A (Con A) at concentrations between 0.5 and 10.0 μg/ml (whereas the optimum concentration of LMS is 10 - 100 fold higher (50 - 100 μg/ml)). Products 1, 2 and 3 significantly inhibited the lymphocyte proliferative response at concentrations >2.2, 10.0 and 10.0 μg/ml, respectively. These studies indicate that under relatively mild conditions, including physiological conditions, LMS may decompose to products which inhibit or enhance lymphocyte responses to Con A.
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