Alcohol (Fayetteville, N.Y.)

ELISA assays and alcohol: increasing carbon chain length can interfere with detection of cytokines.

PMID 20843633


Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs) are frequently used in studies on cytokine production in response to treatment of cell cultures or laboratory animals. When an ELISA assay is performed on cell culture supernatants, samples often contain the treatment agents. The purpose of the present study was to determine if some of the agents evaluated might inhibit cytokine detection by interfering with the ELISA, leaving the question of whether cytokine production was inhibited unanswered. Mouse and human cytokine ELISA kits from BD Biosciences were used according to the manufacturer's instructions. Cytokine proteins were subjected to one to five carbon alcohols at 86.8mM (methanol, ethanol, 1-propanol, 2-propanol, n-butanol, and n-pentanol). After treating cell cultures with alcohols of different carbon chain lengths, we found that some of the alcohols interfered with measurement of some cytokines by ELISA, thus making their effects on cytokine production by cells in culture unclear. Increasing carbon chain length of straight chain alcohols positively correlated with their ability to inhibit detection of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) and interleukin 10 (IL-10), but not with the detection of interleukin 6 (IL-6), interleukin 8, (IL-8), and interleukin 12 (IL-12). To avoid misinterpretation of treatment effects, ELISA assays should be tested with the reference protein and the treatment agent first, before testing biological samples. These results along with other recent results we obtained using circular dichroism indicate that alcohols with two or more carbons can directly alter protein conformation enough to disrupt binding in an ELISA (shown in the present study) or to inhibit ligand-induced conformational changes (results not shown). Such direct effects have not been given enough consideration as a mechanism of ethanol action in the immune system.