Imbalanced accumulation of ribosomal RNA in macrophages activated in vivo or in vitro to a cytolytic stage

L. Varesio

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Previous studies have shown that peritoneal murine macrophages activated in vivo and in vitro to a tumoricidal stage have a depressed rate of RNA synthesis. In attempting to clarify the differences in RNA metabolism between noncytotoxic and tumoricidal macrophages, we have studied the relative accumulation of various species of RNA in macrophages activated in vivo and in vitro with the use of agarose gel electrophoresis. Macrophages activated in vitro to a cytotoxic stage with supernatants containing lymphokines (LK) and traces of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) have an imbalanced accumulation of mature ribosomal RNA (rRNA), with a decreased accumulation of 28S rRNA compared to 18S rRNA. In contrast, macrophages primed in vitro with LK free of detectable endotoxins that exhibit suppressive rather than tumoricidal activity do not manifest a decreased 28S:18S rRNA ratio. The conclusion that the decreased 28S:18S rRNA ratio was associated with the activation of macrophages to a cytolytic stage was supported by the finding that cytotoxic macrophages activated in vivo by i.p. injection of Propionibacterium acnes (formerly designated C. parvum) also demonstrated a decreased accumulation of 28S comparable with that observed in in vitro-activated macrophages. Moreover, activated macrophages that lost their cytolytic activity upon prolonged in vitro culture had an augmented accumulation of 28S rRNA. These results provide the first direct evidence that the expression of cytolytic activity is associated with modulation of a specific class of RNA. The unbalanced accumulation of rRNA appears to be a late molecular event in the activation process occurring during the transition from primed to cytotoxic macrophages, because inflammatory and primed macrophages had normal rRNA accumulation. A model of macrophage activation accounting for these results is proposed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1262-1267
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1985

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology


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