Listeria monocytogenes activation of human peripheral blood lymphocytes: Induction of non-major histocompatibility complex-restricted cytotoxic activity and cytokine production

Y. Guo, D. W. Niesel, H. K. Ziegler, G. R. Klimpel

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13 Scopus citations


Gram-negative bacteria have been shown to activate human natural killer (NK) cells. In this report, we show that the gram-positive bacterium Listeria monocytogenes can also activate human NK cells with regard to non-major histocompatibility complex (MHC)-restricted killing and the production of cytokines. Overnight incubation of peripheral blood mononuclear (PBM) cells or enriched NK cell populations with live or Formalin-fixed L. monocytogenes resulted in high levels of non-MHC-restricted cytotoxic activity. Listeria- stimulated non-MHC-restricted cytotoxic activity could be achieved with pathogenic as well as nonpathogenic Listeria strains. PBM cells also produced tumor necrosis factor alpha and different interferons (IFNs) after incubation with Listeria strains. Optimal cytokine production appeared to be dependent on nylon wool- and plastic-adherent cells. Different IFNs were produced by Listeria-stimulated PBM cells obtained from different donors. IFN-γ was always produced but was sometimes associated with IFN-α and/or IFN-β. Interleukin-2 (IL-2) activity was never detected in culture supernatants obtained from Listeria-stimulated PBM cell cultures. However, IL-2 appeared to be produced by Listeria-stimulated PBM cells, since antibody to IL-2 inhibited Listeria-stimulated NK cell cytotoxic activity. Listeria activation of NK cell cytotoxic activity was also dependent on tumor necrosis factor alpha production. Antibody to IFN-γ, IFN-β, or IFN-α had no effect on Listeria-stimulated NK cell cytotoxic activity. These results demonstrate that NK cells can be activated by Listeria strains and add further evidence that NK cells may play an important role in host defense against bacterial infections.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1813-1819
Number of pages7
JournalInfection and immunity
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jan 1 1992


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases

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