The role of tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) in human B cell responses was examined and compared with that of interleukin (IL) 1 by assessing the ability of each cytokine to support proliferation and differentiation. Recombinant TNF-alpha (rTNF-alpha) and recombinant IL-1 (rIL-1) each enhanced the generation of immunoglobulin-secreting cells (ISC) in cultures of pokeweed mitogen-stimulated B cells incubated with T cells. To examine the direct effect of rTNF-alpha and rIL-1 on the responding B cell, highly purified peripheral blood B cells were stimulated with Cowan I Staphylococcus aureus (SA). In the absence of T cell factors, proliferation was minimal and there was no generation of ISC. Recombinant IL-2 (rIL-2) supported both responses. Although rTNF-alpha alone did not support SA-stimulated generation of ISC, it did increase SA-stimulated B cell DNA synthesis by two- to eightfold. In addition, rTNF-alpha augmented B cell proliferation in rIL-2 supported SA-stimulated cultures. Moreover, rTNF-alpha enhanced the generation of ISC stimulated by rIL-2 alone or rIL-2 and SA. rIL-1 also augmented DNA synthesis and generation of ISC by B cells stimulated with SA and rIL-2. However, rTNF-alpha enhanced proliferation and ISC generation in SA + rIL-2-stimulated cultures even when they were supplemented with saturating concentrations of rIL-1. Utilizing a two-stage culture system, it was found that the major effect of rTNF-alpha was to enhance responsiveness of SA-activated B cells to rIL-2, whereas it exerted only a minimal effect during initial stimulation. These results indicate that TNF-alpha as well as IL-1 augment B cell responsiveness. Moreover, the ability of rTNF-alpha to enhance B cell responsiveness was not an indirect effect resulting from the induction of Il-1 production by contaminating monocytes, but rather resulted from the delivery of a signal by rTNF-alpha directly to the responding B cell that promoted both proliferation and differentiation after initial activation. The data therefore indicate that human B cell responsiveness can be independently regulated by the action of two separate monocyte-derived cytokines.

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