The glomerular mesangium is centrally involved in immune-mediated glomerulonephritis. The mesangial cell is a mesenchyme-derived multipotential vascular pericyte, which shares several properties with macrophages. Cultured, proliferating rat mesangial cells produce a factor, mesangial cell-derived thymocyte-activating factor (MC-TAF), which physicochemically and biologically closely resembles macrophage interleukin 1. MC-TAF is heat labile, of low m.w. (approximately 15,000), and adheres to anion exchangers. MC-TAF acts to augment lectin-induced thymocyte proliferation and enhances peripheral lymphocyte production of interleukin 2. These findings suggest that a mesangial cell cytokine may interact with the cellular immune system in an antigenically nonspecific fashion to modulate immune responses in glomerular disease.

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