Dibutyryl cAMP (dB-cAMP) and the cAMP elevating agents, prostaglandin E1, theophylline, and histamine markedly suppressed NK cytolytic function in a dose-and rate-dependent manner. The inhibition was rapidly induced and persisted in the presence of the drugs. Separate pretreatment of targets and highly purified NK cells, isolated by a target binding and velocity sedimentation technique, revealed that PGE1 and dB-cAMP acted at the level of the effector cell in a short-term cytolytic assay. In contrast to the inhibitory effects of cAMP elevating agents, dB-cGMP and carbamylcholine caused a small but significant acceleration in the rate of lysis and could compete with inhibitory doses of dB-cAMP to reduce the level of suppression thereby suggesting that the cAMP-cGMP ratio might be important in NK-mediated lysis. Insulin had no effect on NK activity, whereas T cell-mediated cytolysis was augmented by insulin and cGMP if the effector cells were taken early after alloimmunization but not later. Neither cAMP- nor cGMP-elevating agents affected the frequency of NK-target cell conjugates. These results are compatible with the hypothesis that cyclic nucleotides may be involved in triggering the lytic event within NK cells.


This work was supported by the Killam program of the Canada Council and National Cancer Institute Contract NO1 CB 64023.

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