The capacity of T lymphocytes from patients with B cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia (B-CLL) to release interleukin 2 (IL 2) and interferon (IFN)-gamma was assessed following various stimuli. The spontaneous release of IL 2 and IFN-gamma was practically absent both with B-CLL and normal T lymphocytes. By contrast, after stimulation with phytohemagglutinin (PHA) or with PHA plus 12-O- tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate, the production of IL 2 and IFN-gamma by B-CLL T lymphocytes was similar to that of normal T lymphocytes, irrespective of the reversed T lymphocyte subset distribution (OKT4/OKT8 ratio) observed in B-CLL. However, the titer of IL 2 was greatly reduced when autologous leukemic B cells were added to the culture system. Unlike IL 2, the presence of leukemic B cells did not affect the titer of IFN-gamma in the culture supernatants. The indication that IL 2 may be adsorbed in vivo by the neoplastic B cells was further confirmed by the demonstration of the IL 2 receptor (revealed by anti-Tac monoclonal antibody) on the leukemic B cells, particularly following mitogenic stimulation, and by the evidence that exogenous IL 2 can be directly absorbed by untreated B-CLL T lymphocytes to release IFN-gamma and IL 2 is preserved, but that IL 2 may be rapidly removed by the neoplastic B-CLL cells, thus contributing to the well-documented T lymphocyte abnormalities present in this disease.

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