Defective NK cell activity following thermal injury

G. R. Klimpel, D. N. Herndon, M. Fons, T. Albrecht, M. T. Asuncion, R. Chin, M. D. Stein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Peripheral blood mononuclear lymphocytes (PBL) from thermal injury patients were examined for their ability to mediate natural killer (NK) cell activity against K562 tumour cells and against herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) infected Raji tumour cells. Using fluorescein isothiocyanate-conjugated monoclonal antibodies, the number of T3, T4, T8, Leu11, and Leu7 positive cells in PBL obtained from patients and normal controls was determined. Thermal injury patients had decreased levels of T3+ cells and a T4:T8 ratio which was significantly lower than that found in normal control individuals. Although patients had normal percentages of Leu7+ and Leu11+ cells, they had depressed NK cell activity against both K562 tumour cells and HSV-1 infected Raji cells. NK cell activity against K562 tumour cells was severely depressed during the first 20 days after injury. This defective NK cell activity did not appear to be due to a defect in PBL binding to the K562 tumour cells. In patients, the level of NK cell activity against HSV-1 infected cells did not correlate with the level of NK cell activity against K562 tumour cells. This finding further supports previous reports showing that NK cells which kill K562 tumour cells are different from the NK cell population which kills HSV-1 infected cells. Pretreatment of PBL obtained from patients with IL-2 or IFN-α, in some cases greatly enhanced NK cell killing of K562 tumour cells. However, IL-2 or IFN-α did not enhance NK cell activity in patients who had severely depressed levels of NK cell activity. Interestingly, in some patients, differential responsiveness to IL-2 and IFN-α was observed. In some patients, NK cell activity was enhanced by IL-2 but not by IFN-α. These results, while only suggestive, may indicate that different populations of NK cells respond preferentially to IL-2 and that IFN-α and/or IL-2 enhance NK cell activity in PBL obtained from some, but not all, thermal injury patients. Finally, this study clearly shows that thermal injury patients have defective NK cell activity not only against K562 tumour cells but also against virus-infected cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)384-392
Number of pages9
JournalClinical and Experimental Immunology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1986
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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