Recombinant interleukin 2 stimulates in vivo proliferation of adoptively transferred lymphokine-activated killer (LAK) cells

S. E. Ettinghausen, E. H. Lipford, J. J. Mule, S. A. Rosenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We previously reported that the adoptive transfer of lymphokine-activated killer (LAK) cells plus repetitive injections of recombinant interleukin 2 (IL 2) produced a marked reduction in established pulmonary metastases from a variety of murine sarcomas. The requirement for the exogenous administration of IL 2 prompted a subsequent examination of the role of IL 2 in the in vivo function of transferred LAK cells. The in vivo proliferation and migration patterns of lymphoid cells in C57BL/6 mice were examined after i.v. transfer of LAK cells alone, i.p. injection of IL 2 alone, or the combination of LAK cells and IL 2. A model for in vivo labeling of the DNA of dividing cells was used in which mice were injected with 5-[125I]-iodo-2'-deoxyuridine(125IUdR) and, 20 hr later, their tissues were removed and were counted in a gamma analyzer. A proliferation index (PI) was calculated by dividing the mean cpm of organs of experimentally treated mice by the mean cpm of organs of control mice. In animals given LAK cells alone, the lungs and liver demonstrated little if any uptake of 125IUdR above saline-treated controls (PI=2.5 and 0.8, respectively, on day 5), whereas the same organs of mice receiving 6000 U of IL 2 alone displayed higher radiolabel incorporation (PI=7.1 and 5.9, respectively). When mice were given LAK cells plus 6000 U of IL 2, their tissues showed an additional increase in 125IUdR uptake. In the spleen, kidneys, and mesenteric lymph nodes, IL 2 treatment alone (6000 U) produced elevated PI values that were not, however, additionally increased if LAK cells were also administered. To separate the stimulatory effects of IL 2 on host lymphocyte proliferation from similar IL 2 effects on injected LAK cells, these studies were repeated in mice immunosuppressed by 500 rad total body irradiation. Pre-irradiation of the host sufficiently reduced endogenous lymphoid expansion stimulated by IL 2 so as to allow the demonstration that IL 2 also induced the proliferation of the transferred LAK cells. A variety of studies confirmed that the injected LAK cells were actively proliferating in tissues in vivo under the influence of IL 2. Substitution of 'normal' LAK cells with fresh and cultured (without IL 2) splenocytes, or irradiated LAK cells did not result in increased 125IUdR uptake in tissues. Histologic studies corroborated the findings of the 125IUdR incorporation assays and revealed extensive lymphoid proliferation in irradiated mice receiving LAK cells plus IL 2. Fluorescein-labeled anti-Thy-1.2 antibody identified proliferating LAK cells derived from donor C57BL/6 splenocytes in the lungs and liver of recipient congenic Thy-1.1 animals. Lymphocytes recovered from the lungs of irradiated, LAK cell-treated mice maintained their in vitro cytotoxicity as demonstrated by short-term 51Cr-release assays against a fresh tumor target. Concurrent administration of IL 2 to these mice produced a 32-fold increase in the number of lytic units recovered from lungs when compared with control mice given saline. These studies demonstrate that, after adoptive transfer into mice, LAK cells undergo active in vivo proliferation that in turn is dependent on the concomitant administration of IL 2. The IL 2 stimulation of in vivo proliferation of LAK cells and their tissue-specific sites of expansion have important implications for studies of the adoptive immunotherapy of tumors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3623-3635
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1985
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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