NK cells exert their lytic action through the release of NK cytotoxic factors (NKCF) after stimulation by the bound target cell. NKCF may be related to granule-derived perforin/cytolysin on one hand and to the pleiotropic cytokine TNF on the other hand. In the present study, we show that NKCF can also lyse artificial lipid vesicles, as had been reported previously for cytotoxic granules and cytolysin. The lysis of large unilamellar vesicles was monitored by measuring the release of the encapsulated fluorescent dye carboxyfluorescein. NKCF-induced lysis was only observed with liposomes composed of a complex mixture of lipids including acidic phospholipids. No lysis could be demonstrated if the liposomes contained phosphatidylcholine as the only phospholipid, suggesting some kind of lipid specificity for the action of NKCF. A remarkable finding was that neither recombinant nor natural TNF were able to lyse large unilamellar vesicles, irrespective of their lipid composition, indicating different ways of interaction of NKCF and TNF with artificial (and presumably also biological) membranes.

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