IL-12 or IL-4 prime human NK cells to mediate functionally divergent interactions with dendritic cells or tumors

Emanuela Marcenaro, Mariella Della Chiesa, Francesca Bellora, Silvia Parolini, Romano Millo, Lorenzo Moretta, Alessandro Moretta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the course of inflammatory responses in peripheral tissues, NK cells may be exposed to cytokines such as IL-12 and IL-4 released by other cell types that may influence their functional activities. In the present study we comparatively analyzed purified human peripheral blood NK cells that had been exposed to either IL-12 or IL-4 during short (overnight) incubation. We show that although IL-12-cultured NK cells produced abundant IFN-γ, TNF-α, and GM-CSF in response to stimuli acting on the NKp46-activating receptor, IL-4-cultured NK cells did not release detectable levels of these cytokines. In contrast, IL-4-cultured NK cells produced significant levels of TNF-α and GM-CSF only when stimulated with PMA and ionomycin. In no instance could the production of IL-5 and IL-13 be detected. Importantly, IL-12-cultured, but not IL-4-cultured, NK cells displayed strong cytolytic activity against various tumor cells or immature dendritic cells (DCs). Moreover, only NK cells that had been cultured in IL-12 were able to induce substantial DC maturation. Our data suggest that NK cells exposed to IL-12 for a time interval compatible with in vivo responses may favor the selection of appropriate mature DCs for subsequent Th1 cell priming in secondary lymphoid organs. On the contrary, NK cells exposed to IL-4 do not exert DC selection, may impair efficient Th1 priming, and favor either tolerogenic or Th2-type responses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3992-3998
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology


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