Human thymic epithelial cells produce interleukin 1.
Although the thymus plays a critical role in generation of immunocompetent T lymphocytes, the precise role of the epithelial component of the thymus in the induction of T cell proliferation and maturation remains unknown. Since interleukin 1 (IL 1) is required for mature T cell activation, we have determined whether human thymic epithelial (TE) cells produce IL 1. By using a system for longterm culture of human TE cells, we found that human TE cells produced an IL 1-like factor (TE-IL 1) that augmented the proliferation of C3H/HeJ mouse thymocytes to phytohemagglutinin. IL 1 activity (20 to 200 U/ml) was detected in supernatants of TE cultures from all individuals (2 to 13 yr old) tested. IL 1 activity was also detected in supernatants of TE cultures from a 17-wk fetus but not from a 10-wk fetus. Production of TE-IL 1 was dependent on TE cell density and time in culture with optimal TE-IL 1 activity observed at 10(6) TE cells/ml after 48 to 72 hr of culture. With the use of high performance liquid chromatography, TE-IL 1 chromatographed as a molecule of 18,000 to 20,000 relative molecular mass, and by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, TE-IL 1 migrated at 15,000 to 17,000 Mr. With the use of isoelectrofocusing gels, charge heterogeneity of TE-IL 1 was demonstrated with two major isoelectric points of 5.7 to 5.8 and 6.9 to 7.0. Polyclonal antibody to human monocyte IL 1 markedly inhibited the TE-IL 1 activity. In indirect immunofluorescence assay of frozen human thymic sections, rabbit anti-IL 1 antibody reacted with epithelial cells in human thymic cortex and medulla. Furthermore, high performance liquid chromatography-purified TE-IL 1 augmented human thymocyte proliferation to suboptimal concentrations of phytohemagglutinin. Thus, thymic epithelial cells are capable of providing an intrathymic source of IL 1-like cytokine (TE-IL 1), which affects thymocyte proliferation. We propose that TE-IL 1 may play an important role in intrathymic proliferation and differentiation of human thymocytes.
Le, PT; Tuck, DT; Dinarello, CA; Haynes, BF; Singer, KH
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