Apoptosis induced by NK cells is modulated by the NK-active cytokines IL-2 and IL-12

Luigi Rodella, Rita Rezzani, Giorgio Zauli, Adriana Rita Mariani, Riccardo Rizzoli, Marco Vitale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


NK cells kill sensitive targets via exocytosis of cytoplasmic granules containing membrane damaging perforins and DNA damaging granzymes. Therefore, the target cell can either die by necrosis or by apoptosis. A third, non-secretory, mechanism of killing mediated by Fas-FasL interaction can be used by activated NK cells to kill Fas+ targets. Here, we have studied the modulation exerted by two NK active cytokines, IL-2 and IL-12, on the apoptosis-inducing activity of NK cells in NK-sensitive Fas- K562 and NK-insensitive Fas+ Raji cells. Our results show that apoptosis is preferentially induced at low target:effector ratios. Resting NK cells virtually do not induce apoptosis in target cells while IL-2 stimulation endows NK cells with the capacity of inducing apoptosis and IL-12 further enhances this effect against both targets. Finally, we demonstrate that cytokine-stimulated NK cells use both granzyme and Fas-FasL pathways of apoptosis induction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)719-725
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Immunology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1998


  • EGTA
  • Fas
  • Granzyme
  • K562
  • Monensin
  • Peripheral blood lymphocytes
  • Raji

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology


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