In vivo cadmium treatment alters natural killer activity and large granular lymphocyte number in the rat

Maria Grazia Cifone, Edoardo Alesse, Renato Di Eugenio, Tiziano Napolitano, Stefania Morrone, Rossella Paolini, Giorgio Santoni, Angela Santoni

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The effects of oral exposure for nearly 6 months to Cd (200 or 400 ppm) on rat natural killer (NK) activity were investigated. No significant differences in body and thymus weights were observed. Peripheral blood lymphocyte (PBL) number was consistently higher in treated rats throughout the treatment; the number of spleen cells decreased during the first 50 days, and then reached a level higher than in controls. NK activity, evaluated in a 4-h chromium release assay against YAC-1 target cells, was altered in treated rats: lower up to day 30, and then higher. In parallel, a reduction of the large granular lymphocytes (LGL) was found initially in the peripheral blood of Cd-treated rats, followed by a persistent marked increase. These changes were closely correlated with the altered distribution of CD8+ aGM1+ CD5- cells, which mostly consist of NK cells. Fluorescence-activated cell sorter (FACS) analysis revealed a decrease of cell subset with a typical NK phenotype during the first 30 days of treatment and a clear increase thereafter. Post-exposure observations indicated that all these effects disappeared with a return to control values 2 months after cessation of treatment. These findings suggest that in vivo administration of Cd induces both inhibitory and stimulatory effects on rat NK cell number and cytotoxic activity, depending on time of exposure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-156
Number of pages8
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1989


  • Cadmium chloride
  • Large granular lymphocyte
  • Natural killer activity
  • Rat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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