Highly purified natural killer (NK) cell suspensions were tested for their capacity to release colony-stimulating activity (CSA) in vitro. NK cell suspensions comprised primarily CD16+ cells and were devoid of CD3+ T cells, CD15+ monocytes, and of B cells. CSA was detected in the NK cell supernatants and sustained the growth of myeloid colonies from both normal peripheral blood and bone marrow. CSA could be in part inhibited by pretreating NK cell culture supernatants with a specific goat anti-granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) antiserum. The inhibition, however, was never complete, a finding that suggests that additional factors were responsible for CSA. Incubation of NK cells with K562 cells (an NK-sensitive target) or with normal bone marrow cells resulted in the appearance of a strong colony- inhibiting activity (CIA) in the culture supernatants. Such CIA was demonstrable in an experimental system where bone marrow or peripheral blood progenitors were induced to form myeloid colonies in the presence of conditioned medium by CSA-producing giant cell tumor (GCT) cells. Stimulation of NK cells with NK-insensitive targets failed to induce CIA production. Neutralizing antitumor necrosis factor (TNF) monoclonal antibodies (MoAbs) were found capable of inhibiting CIA present in the supernatants of NK cells stimulated with K562 cells. Following treatment with anti-TNF antibodies, CSA was again detectable in the same supernatants. This finding indicates that induction of TNF production did not concomitantly switch off CSA production by NK cells. Pretreatment of NK cells with recombinant interleukin-2 (rIL-2) or gamma interferon (r gamma IFN) did not change the amount of CSA released. However, treatment with rIL-2 caused the appearance of a factor in the NK cell supernatants capable of sustaining the formation of colonies of a larger size.

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