The capacity of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) antibody-positive sera from homosexually active men without acquired immune deficiency syndrome to lyse the HIV-infected T cell lines MOLT-4f and CCRF-CEM (CEM) in cooperation with lymphocytes from normal donors was investigated. Twenty-seven HIV antibody-positive sera, most of which enhanced the killing of HIV-infected MOLT-4f and CEM target cells by normal mononuclear cells were studied in detail. HIV antibody-positive sera resulted in lysis at dilutions as high as 1/10,000. HIV antibody-negative sera did not augment lysis of infected target cells. In addition, lysis of uninfected targets was not enhanced in the presence of HIV antibody-positive sera. Because fractionation of the HIV antibody-positive sera on a protein A affinity column resulted in recovery of the activity from the IgG fraction, the extra cytotoxic activity mediated by nonimmune cells in the presence of immune sera appears to be antibody-dependent. Furthermore, the cytotoxic effector cells were in the nonrosetting fraction of lymphocytes and expressed Leu-11 (cluster designation (CD)15) antigens, which is characteristic of cells participating in antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity reactions. The antibody specificity of the sera, determined by radioimmunoprecipitation, provides evidence that antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity can occur even when there are no detectable antibodies directed against gag proteins. Sera which lacked detectable antibodies to the envelope protein gp120 by radioimmunoprecipitation did not mediate antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity.

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