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Eur J Immunol. 2001 Mar;31(3):792-801.

Interleukin-1beta costimulates interferon-gamma production by human natural killer cells.

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Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Hematology/Oncology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, USA.


Natural killer (NK) cells are an early source of immunoregulatory cytokines during the innate immune response to viruses, bacteria, and parasites. NK cells provide requisite IFN-gamma to monocytes for the elimination of obligate intracellular pathogens. IL-1beta is a pro-inflammatory cytokine produced by monocytes (i.e. a monokine) during the early immune response to infection, but its role in promoting human NK cell IFN-gamma production is unknown. The current study examines the ability of the monokine IL-1beta, plus IL-12, to costimulate IFN-gamma production by resting CD56(bright) and CD56(dim) human NK cell subsets. CD56(bright) NK cells stimulated with IL-1beta plus IL-12 produced abundant IFN-gamma protein, while little IFN-gamma was produced in identical cultures of CD56(dim) cells. In addition, upon activation with IL-1beta, CD56(bright) NK cells exhibited considerably greater phosphorylation of extracellular signal-regulated kinases p42/44 as compared to CD56(dim) NK cells. Quantitative PCR analysis showed brisk induction of IFN-gamma gene expression following costimulation with IL-1beta plus IL-12 in CD56(bright) NK cells, but intracellular flow cytometry revealed that only a fraction (42+/-2.3%) of CD56(bright) NK cells account for this high IFN-gamma production. These data suggest that the monokine IL-1beta is a potent costimulus of IFN-gamma production by a subset of NK cells following infectious insult.

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