This study analyzes the expression of functional interleukin-1 (IL-1) receptors on leukemic B-cell precursors (BCPs) from B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia (BCP ALL) patients. We first investigated the specific binding of 125I-labeled recombinant IL-1 (125I-rIL-1) (4 x 10(17) cpm/mol) to fresh marrow blasts from 11 BCP ALL patients. In five of 11 cases, the binding of 125I-rIL-1 was significantly blocked by excess cold rIL-1. In these five cases, the cell-bound radioactivity ranged from 146 cpm/10(6) cells to 2,412 cpm/10(6) cells (mean +/- SE = 782 +/- 414 cpm/10(6) cells), indicating that 4 to 60 femtomols (mean +/- SE = 20 +/- 10 femtomols) of 125I-rIL-1 specifically bound per 10(7) cells. The estimated number of 125I-rIL-1 molecules bound per cell ranged from 219 to 3,618 (mean +/- SE = 1173 +/- 621). In all five cases, BCP colony formation was stimulated by 10 ng/mL (570 femtomolar) rIL-1, and the background-subtracted colony numbers ranged from 130 to 298 (mean +/- SE = 226 +/- 31). In contrast, no stimulation was observed in six cases that showed no significant 125I-rIL-1 binding. Hence, there was a high correlation between 125I-rIL-1 binding and IL-1 responsiveness, indicating that functional IL-1 receptors were detected in ligand binding assays. Scatchard plot analysis of the specific equilibrium binding data for leukemic BCPs from two IL-1-responsive BCP ALL cases yielded straight linear regression lines, indicating the existence of a single class of 132 to 154 high affinity IL-1 receptors/cell. The apparent affinity constants (Ka) values ranged from 5.2 x 10(9) mol/L-1 to 1.2 x 10(10) mol/L-1. Notably, the concentrations of IL-1 required for half-maximal receptor occupancy (kd = 83 pmol/L to 190 pmol/L) were approximately three orders of magnitude higher than those needed to elicit a half-maximal proliferative response of leukemic BCPs in colony assays (0.1 to 1.0 ng/mL = 5.7 to 57 femtomolar), indicating that only a small fraction of IL-1 receptors need to be occupied to stimulate leukemic BCPs. Notably, IL-1 unresponsive leukemic BCPs from one BCP ALL patient and two BCP ALL cell lines (REH, KM-3) did not exhibit any significant IL-1 binding (less than 10 IL-1 binding sites/cell), and two additional IL-1 unresponsive BCP ALL cell lines (NALM-6, HPB-NULL) expressed only 24 to 54 IL-1 binding sites/cell with a Ka of 7.8 to 9.8 x 10(9) mol/L- 1.

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