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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1988 Dec;85(24):9699-703.

Role of interleukin 1 in the activation of T lymphocytes.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA.


The activation of T lymphocytes requires their stimulation via clonotypic antigen receptors as well as nonantigen-specific costimulators, the best defined of which is the cytokine interleukin 1 (IL-1). Recent studies have shown that murine CD4+ helper T lymphocytes consist of two nonoverlapping subsets that selectively utilize interleukin 2 (IL-2) or interleukin 4 as their autocrine growth factors and are called Th1 and Th2 cells, respectively. We now show that IL-1 functions as a costimulator for the proliferation of Th2 but not of Th1 clones and only Th2 cells express high-affinity receptors for IL-1. Secretion of autocrine growth-promoting lymphokines by Th1 and Th2 cells occurs after stimulation via the antigen receptor-CD3 complex and is neither dependent on nor affected by IL-1. These findings suggest that the activation of T lymphocytes can be divided into two stages, lymphokine secretion and proliferation, and only proliferation requires costimulators such as IL-1. Moreover, the prevailing view that IL-1 functions as a costimulator by inducing secretion of IL-2 or expression of IL-2 receptors may not be generally applicable, because IL-2-producing Th1 clones do not express receptors for IL-1 and are insensitive to this cytokine.

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