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J Immunol. 1991 May 1;146(9):2908-14.

Cholera toxin stimulates IL-1 production and enhances antigen presentation by macrophages in vitro.

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  • 1Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, University of Göteborg, Sweden.


Cholera toxin (CT) is a strong systemic and mucosal adjuvant that greatly enhances IgG and IgA immune responses. We investigated whether CT potentiates Ag presentation by macrophages as a possible mechanism underlying its adjuvant function. This was tested by preculturing APC in CT and analyzing the effect of CT treatment on the capacity to trigger 1) an allogeneic proliferative response of normal mesenteric lymph node T cells (H-2b) to the macrophage cell line P388D1 (H-2d) or 2) an Ag-specific proliferative response of D10.G4.1 clonal T cells in co-culture with normal macrophages and Ag. Pretreatment of APC, normal peritoneal macrophages or the P388D1 cells, with CT strongly enhanced Ag- and allogen-specific T cell proliferation. Also P388D1 APC treated with CT and then formalin-fixed demonstrated enhanced ability to stimulate T cell proliferation as compared to cells not exposed to CT, suggesting that the effect of CT on APC might be to enhance expression of a cell-associated factor. Flow microfluorimetry analysis of P388D1 cells cultured in CT-containing medium failed to detect an increase in class II MHC-Ag expression as compared to that found on cells not cultured in CT. In contrast, both soluble and cell-associated IL-1 formation was increased several-fold by CT, but with different CT dose requirements. A total of 10 to 100 times more CT were required for elevating the soluble IL-1 as compared to the cell associated IL-1, which was increased by as little as 1 ng/ml of CT. The soluble and cell-associated IL-1 activity induced by CT was abrogated by a polyclonal antiserum to IL-1-alpha. Similarly, the potentiating effect of CT on the ability of P388D1 APC to trigger alloreactive T cell proliferation was also blocked completely by the addition of the anti-IL-1-alpha antibody to the test system. This is the first study to demonstrate that CT potentiates Ag presentation. The mechanism for this effect probably involves induction of IL-1 production and in particular of a cell-associated form of IL-1 (IL-1-alpha). Potentiation of APC function might be important for the adjuvant action of CT on the immune response in vivo.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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