We previously reported that the adoptive transfer of lymphokine-activated killer (LAK) cells plus repetitive injections of recombinant interleukin 2 (IL 2) produced a marked reduction in established pulmonary metastases from a variety of murine sarcomas. The requirement for the exogenous administration of IL 2 prompted a subsequent examination of the role of IL 2 in the in vivo function of transferred LAK cells. The in vivo proliferation and migration patterns of lymphoid cells in C57BL/6 mice were examined after i.v. transfer of LAK cells alone, i.p. injection of IL 2 alone, or the combination of LAK cells and IL 2. A model for in vivo labeling of the DNA of dividing cells was used in which mice were injected with 5-[125I]-iodo-2'-deoxyuridine (125IUdR) and, 20 hr later, their tissues were removed and were counted in a gamma analyzer. A proliferation index (PI) was calculated by dividing the mean cpm of organs of experimentally treated mice by the mean cpm of organs of control mice. In animals given LAK cells alone, the lungs and liver demonstrated little if any uptake of 125IUdR above saline-treated controls (PI = 2.5 and 0.8, respectively, on day 5), whereas the same organs of mice receiving 6000 U of IL 2 alone displayed higher radiolabel incorporation (PI = 7.1 and 5.9, respectively). When mice were given LAK cells plus 6000 U of IL 2, their tissues showed an additional increase in 125IUdR uptake. In the spleen, kidneys, and mesenteric lymph nodes, IL 2 treatment alone (6000 U) produced elevated PI values that were not, however, additionally increased if LAK cells were also administered. To separate the stimulatory effects of IL 2 on host lymphocyte proliferation from similar IL 2 effects on injected LAK cells, these studies were repeated in mice immunosuppressed by 500 rad total body irradiation. Pre-irradiation of the host sufficiently reduced endogenous lymphoid expansion stimulated by IL 2 so as to allow the demonstration that IL 2 also induced the proliferation of the transferred LAK cells. A variety of studies confirmed that the injected LAK cells were actively proliferating in tissues in vivo under the influence of IL 2. Substitution of "normal" LAK cells with fresh and cultured (without IL 2) splenocytes, or irradiated LAK cells did not result in increased 125IUdR uptake in tissues. Histologic studies corroborated the findings of the 125IUdR incorporation assays and revealed extensive lymphoid proliferation in irradiated mice receiving LAK cells plus IL 2.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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