We have investigated the possibility of thymosin α1 (TH) cooperating with αβ-interferon (IFN) in boosting natural killer (NK) activity in tumor-bearing, immunosuppressed mice in vivo. Treatment with a single injection of 30,000 IU of IFN 24 h before testing enhanced NK activity in tumor-bearing mice if the IFN was administered 9 days after tumor inoculation, when the animals have normal NK responsiveness. On the other hand, the same treatment led to lower or no improvement of NK responses if the treatment was given 13 or 17 days after tumor inoculation, at a time when tumor growth causes immunosuppression. However, combination treatment with TH (200 μg/kg) for 4 days, followed by IFN was found to restore normal NK cell activity. Selective depletion of antigen-positive cells showed that killer cells stimulated by combination treatment with TH and IFN seem to bear phenotypic characteristics of NK cells. These studies provide the first documentation of a novel combination approach to reconstitution of immunosuppressed tumor-bearing mice using TH and IFN. We hypothesize that TH restores NK boosting activity by IFN by effecting the differentiation/induction of precursor populations of IFN-responsive cells.
ASJC Scopus subject areas