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Eur J Immunol. 2001 Jul;31(7):2236-45.

IFN-alpha and IL-18 synergistically enhance IFN-gamma production in human NK cells: differential regulation of Stat4 activation and IFN-gamma gene expression by IFN-alpha and IL-12.

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Department of Microbiology, National Public Health Institute, Helsinki, Finland.


IFN-gamma, a product of NK and T cells, is a key cytokine contributing innate and adaptive immunity. IFN-gamma production is induced via direct cell-cell contacts with APC and IFN-gamma -producing cells or by cytokines. During microbial infections macrophage-derived IFN-alpha, IL-12, and IL-18 enhance IFN-gamma production and Th1 response. Here we show that IFN-alpha in combination with IL-18 very efficiently induces IFN-gamma expression also in primary, nonactivated NK cells and in NK-92 cell line. Comparison of the kinetics of IFN-gamma mRNA expression in nonactivated NK cells, NK-92 cells and activated T cells stimulated with IFN-alpha or IL-12 revealed that, although both of these cytokines directly up-regulate IFN-gamma mRNA expression, its levels remain elevated much longer with IL-12 stimulation. In both NK cells and T cells, Stat4 is known to be critical in IL-12 and IFN-alpha signaling. We show that Stat4 activation is transient in cells stimulated with IFN-alpha, whereas IL-12 induces more long-lasting activation of the transcription factor. This prolonged activation of IFN-gamma gene by IL-12 may result in more efficient IFN-gamma production compared to that of IFN-alpha. Our results demonstrate that IFN-alpha and IL-18 are important innate cytokines in inducing NK cell IFN-gamma production.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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