The interleukin-12 and interleukin-12 receptor system in normal and transformed human B-lymphocytes

Irma Airoldi, Roberta Guglielmino, Giuseppe Carra, Anna Corcione, Franca Gerosa, Giuseppe Taborelli, Giorgio Trinchieri, Vito Pistoia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background and Objectives. Interleukin-12 (IL-12) is a heterodimeric cytokine that induces interferon-γ (IFN-γ) production by natural killer and T-lymphocytes. IL-12 also activates human B-cells through the IL-12 receptor (IL-12R) complex. Here we review the expression and function of IL-12 and IL-12R in human B-cells and in their malignant counterparts. Evidence and Information Sources. The information provided derives from results both published and unpublished obtained in the laboratories of the Authors, and from a comprehensive review of all the pertinent articles published so far in Medline. State of Art. The two components of the IL-12R, i.e. the β 1 and β 2 chains, were found to be constitutively expressed in human naive, germinal center and memory tonsil B-cells; however, only naive B-cells were activated following interaction with IL-2. Here we show that the IL-12Rβ2 gene is not expressed in EBV-transformed normal B-lymphocytes and in Burkitt's lymphoma B-cell lines. IL-12 p35 and p40 transcripts were detected in all tonsil B-cell subsets, but only naive and memory B-cells produced IL-12. In this study, biosynthesis of IL-12 was investigated in tonsil B-cells, showing that the molecular weight of the mature heterodimeric IL-12 was similar to that of monocyte-derived IL-12, with minor differences possibly related to glycosylation. Finally, malignant B-cells from follicular and marginal zone lymphomas expressed IL-12 p35 and p40 transcripts, whereas only p35 mRNA was detected in mantle cell lymphoma. Perspectives. Taken together, the studies herein reviewed indicate that human B-cells, at variance with their murine counterparts, can produce IL-12 following CD40 ligation. IL-12 p35 and p40 transcripts are found in B-cells from different lympho-proliferative disorders, but the evidence that the cytokine is produced at the protein level is poor. IL-12R is expressed in the main human B-cell subsets, but it is functional only in naive B-cells. Finally, the failure of transformed B-cell lines to express IL-12Rβ2 mRNA opens up new perspectives in the investigation of B-cell malignant transformation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)434-442
Number of pages9
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2002


  • B-cell lymphoproliferative disorders
  • Human B lymphocytes
  • IL-12
  • IL-12 receptor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology


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