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Cell Immunol. 1998 Sep 15;188(2):89-96.

Multinucleated giant cell formation induced by IFN-gamma/IL-3 is associated with restriction of virulent Mycobacterium tuberculosis cell to cell invasion in human monocyte monolayers.

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Department of Medicine, Albuquerque Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 87108, USA.


One of the hallmarks of an effective immune response against Mycobacterium tuberculosis is the formation of granulomas containing multinucleated giant cells. IFN-gamma and interleukin-3 (IL-3) promote Langhans-type multinucleated giant cell formation and have been identified in T cell clones reacting to M. tuberculosis antigens. The ability of human monocytes treated with IFN-gamma and IL-3 to limit the spread of M. tuberculosis in an in vitro infection assay was examined. Monocytes were incubated with control medium, IFN-gamma, TNF-alpha, and calcitriol, a combination permissive to M. tuberculosis growth, or IFN-gamma and IL-3 and infected with a low inoculum of M. tuberculosis (Erdman). IFN-gamma/IL-3 treatment reduced M. tuberculosis CFU relative to both untreated and IFN-gamma/TNF-alpha/calcitriol-treated monocytes. Specifically, CFU were reduced by 79% at 14 days in the IFN-gamma/IL-3 treatment group relative to the IFN-gamma/TNF-alpha/calcitriol treatment group, an effect that was not due to toxic monocyte metabolites. M. tuberculosis growth restriction by IFN-gamma/IL-3-treated monocyte monolayers was associated with the development of Langhans-type multinucleated giant cells. At the light microscope level, dense growth of M. tuberculosis surrounded by a ring of nuclei localized to the center of individual cells. The intracellular location of M. tuberculosis was confirmed by electron microscopy. In contrast, monocyte monolayers treated with IFN-gamma/TNF-alpha/calcitriol consisted of a syncitium of cells containing monocyte aggregates. Nonlocalized linear arrays of M. tuberculosis were observed to be growing throughout such aggregates. These results suggest that physical sequestration of M. tuberculosis by Langhans-type multinucleated giant cells may limit cell to cell spread of this pathogen, thereby restricting growth.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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