Reversibility of lymphokine-induced NK-like activity in virus-specific cytotoxic T-lymphocyte clones

F. Ronchese, D. Collavo, P. Zanovello, V. Cerundolo, G. Biasi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A limiting dilution microculture system, supplemented with a source of interleukin-2 (IL-2), was employed to evaluate the frequency of Moloney-murine leukaemia/sarcoma virus (M-MuLV/M-MSV)-specific cytotoxic T-lymphocyte precursors (CTL-p) which also exhibited NK-like activity. Spleen cells, obtained from M-MuLV/M-MSV regressor mice, were restimulated in bulk secondary mixed leucocyte-tumour cell culture (MLTC), and subsequently plated in a culture medium supplemented with two different supernatants (SN) produced following PMA-stimulation of the same EL-4 thymoma cell line. SN 20, obtained from the cell line maintained in vitro, contained IL-2 and only negligible amounts (<3 U/ml) of interferon (IFN), while SN-19, obtained after passage of the ascitic form of EL-4 thymoma in syngeneic mice, contained both IL-2 and IFN in high titres. The frequency of CTL-p specific for MBL-2 lymphoma cells was high and comparable in cultures supplemented with both SN (1/2·84 cells and 1/2·40 cells, respectively), while the frequency of CTL-p directed against NK-susceptible YAC-1 target cells was low in SN 20 (1/90 cells) and high in SN (1/5·40 cells). An analysis of individual microcultures established at low cell dose (1 cell/well) indicated that specific and NK-like activity could be ascribed to the same precursor cells. Furthermore, using different long-term CTL clones, we observed that, after passage in SN 20, double-reactive clones gradually lose the capacity to lyse NK-susceptible targets, while most of MBL-2 specific clones acquired NK-like activity following a few passages in SN 19. Therefore, the induction of NK-like activity is reversible and may be modulated by soluble factors present in supernatant in which CTL clones are maintained. Double-reactive clones were unable to lyse NK-resistant allogeneic tumour cells or normal syngeneic blast cells. A few clones cross-reacting with H-2(d) alloantigens also exhibited NK-like activity when maintained in SN 19. The different pattern of CTL clone activity was associated with a morphological change in the clones themselves: the acquisition of double activity was accompanied by an increase in cell size and the appearance of numerous cytoplasmic granules. All CTL clones were phenotypically Thy-1+ and Lyt-2+ on indirect immunofluorescence and complement-dependent cytotoxicity investigation. However, following preincubation with anti-Lyt-2 monoclonal antibodies in the absence of complement, some clones were inhibited in their M-MuLV/M-MSV specific cytotoxicity, while none were affected when assayed against the YAC-1 target cells. Therefore, it appears that different recognition structures are involved in the specific and the NK-like activities of CTL clones.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)265-274
Number of pages10
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1985

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology


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