Natural killer cell activation and interferon production by peripheral blood lymphocytes after exposure to bacteria

G. R. Klimpel, D. W. Niesel, M. Asuncion, K. D. Klimpel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


We have previously shown that peripheral blood natural killer (NK) cells have significant levels of cytotoxic activity against Shigella flexneri-infected HeLa cells. In this report, we show that NK cell activity against K562 tumor cells and Shigella flexneri-infected HeLa cells can be greatly enhanced by preincubating peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBL) for 18 h with kanamycin-treated Shigella flexneri or Salmonella typhimurium. Cell-free supernatants obtained from PBL-bacteria cultures contained high levels of interferon (IFN) activity, which was characterized as a mixture of IFN-γ and IFN-α. Cytotoxic activity associated with PBL precultured with shigellae was associated with predominantly CD16+ (Leu-11+) and CD2+ (OKT-11+) cells. Further, IFN production was dependent upon the presence of CD16+ and CD2+ cells at culture initiation. Enhancement of cytotoxic activity associated with PBL-bacteria cultures did not, however, appear to be dependent upon IFN production, since low numbers of bacteria which failed to stimulate IFN production induced high levels of NK cell activity. Lipopolysaccharide appeared not to be involved in bacteria-induced IFN production or enhanced NK cell activity, since Salmonella lipopolysaccharide failed to induce IFN production or enhance NK cell activity. These results suggest that IFN production by NK cells and the killing of bacteria-infected cells play an important role in host defense against facultative intracellular bacterial infection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1436-1441
Number of pages6
JournalInfection and immunity
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1988
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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