The biological role of the murine IFN-gamma endogenously secreted during cell activation has been probed by the use of a rat mAb (AN18) that specifically neutralizes its activity. When An18 mAb is added to the cultures of BALB/c and C57BL/6 nylon nonadherent spleen cells (naSpc) stimulated for 18 h with 1000 U of IL-2, the normally released IFN-gamma can no longer be detected in the supernatants and the IL-2-induced proliferative response is markedly reduced as compared with control cultures set up in the presence of an unrelated rat mAb. By contrast, the increased natural cytotoxicity is not affected. The 96-h culture of both BALB/c and C57BL/6 naSpc in the presence of 1000 U of IL-2 resulted in marked lymphocyte proliferation and generation of lymphokine-activated killer activity. The presence of An18 mAb strongly inhibited both functions. Similarly, when naSpc were stimulated with mitomycin C-inactivated allogeneic leukocytes in the presence of An18 mAb, the normal proliferative response and specific cytotoxicity were almost abolished, whereas the secretion of IL-2 was in no way affected. Lymphocytes recovered from 3-day cultures stimulated by IL-2 or allogeneic cells in the presence of An18 mAb displayed a decrease of the expression of the p55 chain of IL-2R, as shown by flow cytofluorimetry. Moreover, binding experiments with 125I-labeled IL-2 showed that lymphocytes from allostimulated cultures set up in the presence of An18 mAb display a decreased number of low affinity and almost no high affinity IL-2R as compared with control cultures. These data show that endogenous IFN-gamma plays an obligatory role for the de novo induction of cytolytic activity in lymphokine-activated killer cells and CTL, most probably by affecting the membrane expression of high affinity IL-2R.

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