Suppressor T cell activation by human leukocyte interferon

H. W. Schnaper, T. M. Aune, C. W. Pierce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Murine fibroblast interferon (IFNβ) activates murine suppressor T lymphocytes in vitro, which suppress plaque-forming cell responses by spleen cells. Suppression of human in vitro immune responses by IFN was investigated to determine whether human IFN also activates suppressor T cells. Human leukocyte IFN (IFNα) suppressed pokeweed mitogen-induced polyclonal immunoglobulin production by human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) by 80 to 90% at doses of 200 to 350 U/ml. Responses by IFNα-treated PBMC were suppressed in a dose-dependent manner; control cultures had maximal responses on day 7. PBMC incubated with 10,000 U/ml of IFNα contained activated suppressor cells that decreased pokeweed mitogen-stimulated, polyclonal immunoglobulin production by autologous cells by 70 to 80%. Suppression mediated by these cells was prevented by catalase, ascorbic acid, and 2-mercaptoethanol (2-ME). In murine systems, these reagents interfere with expression of suppressor T cell activity by preventing activation of soluble immune response suppressor. Selection procedures with monoclonal antibodies identified the suppressor cell as an OKT8 + (suppressor/cytotoxic) T lymphocyte. Selected OKT8 + cells required less IFNα (1000 U/ml) for activation and were effective in smaller numbers than unfractionated activated PBMC. IFNα-activated suppressor cells also inhibited proliferation in mixed lymphocyte and mitogen-stimulated PBMC cultures; again, catalase and 2-ME blocked suppression. These results indicate that IFNα activates suppressor T cells in human PBMC cultures; the ability of catalase, 2-ME, and ascorbic acid to block suppression suggests that these suppressor T cells have certain similarities to IFNβ or to concanavalin A-activated murine suppressor T cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2301-2306
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Dec 1 1983

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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