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J Interferon Cytokine Res. 2007 May;27(5):399-410.

Role of endogenous IFN-gamma in macrophage programming induced by IL-12 and IL-18.

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Department of Immunology, Institute of Biomedical Sciences, University of São Paulo, Av. Prof. Lineu Prestes 1730, São Paulo, SP, Brazil, CEP 05508-000.


Besides the established role of interleukin-12 (IL-12) and IL-18 on interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) production by natural killer (NK), T, and B cells, the effects of these cytokines on macrophages are largely unknown. Here, we investigated the role of IL-12/IL-18 on nitric oxide (NO) and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) production by CD11b(+) adherent peritoneal cells, focusing on the involvement of endogenously produced IFN-gamma. C57BL/6 cells released substantial amounts of NO when stimulated with IFN-gamma or lipopolysaccharide (LPS), but failed to respond to IL-12 or IL-18 or both. However, IL-12/IL-18 pretreatment was able to program these cells to release 6-8-fold more NO and TNF-alpha in response to LPS or Trypanosoma cruzi stimulation, with NO levels directly correlating with macrophage resistance to intracellular parasite growth. Analysis of IL-12/IL-18-primed cells from mice deficient in IFN-gamma, IFNGR, and IFN regulatory factor-1 (IRF-1) revealed that these molecules were essential for LPS-induced NO release, but TNF-alpha production was IFN-gamma independent. Conversely, the myeloid differentiation factor 88 (MyD88)-dependent pathway was indispensable for IL-12/IL-18-programmed LPS-induced TNF-alpha production, but not for NO release. Contaminant T and NK cells largely modulated the IL-12/IL-18 programming of LPS-induced NO response through IFN-gamma secretion. Nevertheless, a small population of IFN-gamma(+) cells with a macrophage phenotype was also identified, particularly in the peritoneum of chronically T. cruzi-infected mice, reinforcing the notion that macrophages can be an alternative source of IFN-gamma. Taken together, our data contribute to elucidate the molecular basis of the IL-12/IL-18 autocrine pathway of macrophage activation, showing that endogenous IFN-gamma plays an important role in programming the NO response, whereas the TNF-alpha response occurs through an IFN-gamma-independent pathway.

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