Mycoplasma arthritidis mitogen up-regulates human NK cell activity

John A. D'Orazio, Barry C. Cole, Joan Stein-Streilein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


While the effects of superantigens on T lymphocytes are well characterized, how superantigens interact with other immune cells is less clear. This report examines the effects of Mycoplasma arthritidis mitogen (MAM) on human natural killer (NK) cell activity. Incubation of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) with MAM for 16 to 20 h augmented NK cytotoxicity (against K562) in a dose-dependent manner (P ≤ 0.05). Superantigen-dependent cellular cytotoxicity, an activity of superantigen- activated cytotoxic T cells, was not involved in lysis of K562 cells because the erythroleukemic tumor target cells expressed no class II major histocompatibility complex by fluorescence-activated cell sorter analysis. Kinetic experiments showed that the largest increase in NK activity induced by MAM occurred within 48 h. Incubation with MAM caused a portion of NK cells to become adherent to tissue culture flasks, a quality associated with activation, and augmented NK activity was found in both adherent and nonadherent subpopulations. Experiments using cytokine-specific neutralizing antibodies showed that interleukin-2 contributed to enhancement of the NK activity observed in superantigen-stimulated PBMC. Interestingly, MAM was able to augment NK lysis of highly purified NK (CD56+) cells in the absence of other immune cells in 9 of 12 blood specimens, with the augmented lytic activity ranging from 110 to 170% of unstimulated NK activity. In summary, data presented in this report show for the first time that MAM affects human NK cells directly by increasing their lyric capacity and indirectly in PBMC as a consequence of cytokines produced by T cells. Results of this work suggest that, in vivo, one consequence of interaction with superantigen- secreting microorganisms may be up-regulation of NK lytic activity. These findings may have clinical application as a means of generating augmented NK effector cells useful in the immunotherapy of parasitic infections or of neoplasms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)441-447
Number of pages7
JournalInfection and Immunity
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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