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Eur J Immunol. 1998 May;28(5):1507-15.

IL-4-producing NK T cells are biased towards IFN-gamma production by IL-12. Influence of the microenvironment on the functional capacities of NK T cells.

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1
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique URA 1461, Université René Descartes, Paris, France. leite@infobiogen.fr

Abstract

NK T cells are an unusual T lymphocyte subset capable of promptly producing several cytokines after stimulation, in particular IL-4, thus suggesting their influence in Th2 lineage commitment. In this study we demonstrate that, according to the cytokines present in the microenvironment, NK T lymphocytes can preferentially produce either IL-4 or IFN-gamma. In agreement with our previous reports showing that their IL-4-producing capacity is strikingly dependent on IL-7, CD4-CD8-TCRalphabeta+ NK T lymphocytes, obtained after expansion with IL-1 plus granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor, produced almost undetectable amounts of IL-4 or IFN-gamma in response to TCR/CD3 cross-linking. However, the capacity of these T cells to produce IFN-gamma is strikingly enhanced when IL-12 is added either during their expansion or the anti-CD3 stimulation, while IL-4 secretion is always absent. A similar effect of IL-12 on IFN-gamma production was observed when NK T lymphocytes were obtained after expansion with IL-7. It is noteworthy that whatever cytokines are used for their expansion, IL-12 stimulation, in the absence of TCR/CD3 cross-linking, promotes consistent IFN-gamma secretion by NK T cells without detectable IL-4 production. Experiments in vivo demonstrated a significant upregulation of the capacity of NK T cells to produce IFN-gamma after anti-CD3 mAb injection when mice were previously treated with IL-12. In conclusion, we provide evidence that the functional capacities of NK T cells, which ultimately will determine their physiological roles, are strikingly dependent on the cytokines present in their microenvironment.

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