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Infect Immun. Jul 1994; 62(7): 2818–2824.
PMCID: PMC302887

Production of gamma interferon by natural killer cells from Toxoplasma gondii-infected SCID mice: regulation by interleukin-10, interleukin-12, and tumor necrosis factor alpha.


Previous studies of mice have implicated natural killer (NK) cells as mediators of protective activity against Toxoplasma gondii through their production of gamma interferon (IFN-gamma). In the present study, we have compared NK-cell activity in infected and uninfected SCID mice. Our data reveal that infection results in increased levels of IFN-gamma in serum and elevated NK-cell activity but that these NK cells were not cytotoxic for T. gondii-infected P815 cells. Treatment with anti-IFN-gamma antibody abrogated the increase in NK-cell activity and resulted in earlier mortality of infected mice. In vivo treatment with anti-asialo GM1 antiserum reduced NK cell activity and levels of IFN-gamma in serum but did not alter time to death. Spleen cells from infected mice produced higher levels of IFN-gamma than those from uninfected mice when stimulated in vitro with live T. gondii or parasite antigen preparations. Further analysis revealed that interleukin 10 (IL-10) inhibited, whereas tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) and IL-12 enhanced, IFN-gamma production by spleen cells from infected or uninfected mice. The combination of IL-12 and TNF-alpha induced higher levels of IFN-gamma from whole spleen cells of infected mice than from those of uninfected mice. Depletion of the adherent cell population from the spleen cells of infected mice led to a significant reduction in the levels of IFN-gamma produced after stimulation with IL-12 plus TNF-alpha. Similar results did not occur with cells from uninfected mice. These data indicate that other cytokines produced by the adherent cell population from infected mice may be involved in maximal production of IFN-gamma by NK cells stimulated with IL-12 and TNF-alpha. To assess the importance of endogenous IL-12, a polyclonal anti-IL-12 was administered to infected SCID mice. This treatment led to earlier mortality, indicating that endogenous IL-12 mediates resistance to T. gondii.

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