In vivo administration of recombinant interferon-gamma (rIFN-gamma) was previously shown to result in activation of the microbicidal activities of peritoneal macrophages (PM phi). Because macrophages at different anatomical sites vary in their functional capacities, we considered it of interest to determine whether administration of murine rIFN-gamma, either in vitro or in vivo, can enhance the microbicidal activity of resident alveolar macrophages (AM phi) and to compare the effects of rIFN-gamma on AM phi and PM phi. After incubation in vitro with rIFN-gamma, the antimicrobial activities of both murine AM phi and PM phi were enhanced, as assessed by their ability to inhibit replication of the intracellular parasite, Toxoplasma gondii. This effect was dose dependent for AM phi over a range of 0.1 to 1 U/ml and for PM phi over a range of 0.5 to 1000 U/ml. In this assay, the minimum dosage required for in vitro activation of AM phi was one-half that required for activation of PM phi, suggesting a greater sensitivity of AM phi to the in vitro activity of rIFN-gamma. Macrophages from both anatomical sites were also activated when rIFN-gamma was administered in vivo. This effect was dose dependent over a range of 10(3) to 10(5) U/mouse. Freshly harvested AM phi and PM phi from mice injected 24 hr earlier with 10(4) U rIFN-gamma by either the i.v. or i.p. routes markedly inhibited intracellular multiplication of Toxoplasma. In contrast, AM phi and PM phi from control mice permitted fourfold to ninefold increases in numbers of intracellular Toxoplasma. The anti-toxoplasma activity of AM phi and PM phi gradually diminished over a period of 3 days when assayed at successive 24 hr periods after a single i.v. injection of rIFN-gamma. At 3 days after injection, a substantial loss of anti-toxoplasma activity was observed with PM phi as compared with controls; residual anti-toxoplasma activity was still demonstrable in AM phi at 3 days. These results demonstrate that in vitro as well as in vivo treatment with rIFN-gamma confers on AM phi an enhanced antimicrobial activity. These findings provide a rationale for evaluating rIFN-gamma in the treatment of pulmonary infections, especially those due to opportunistic pathogens against which AM phi play a major role in host defense.

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