Natural killer cell-mediated lysis of Mycobacterium-avium complex-infected monocytes

Paul Katz, Henry Yeager, Gail Whalen, Mishell Evans, Rodney P. Swartz, Jennifer Roecklein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Since the precise mechanism of host responses to infection with Mycobacterium-avium complex (MAC) is unclear and since cytotoxic lymphocytes may be involved in the destruction of cells infected with intracellular pathogens, we investigated the ability of normal peripheral blood lymphocytes to kill MAC-infected monocytes in a short-term isotope release assay. Nylon wool-passed lymphocytes lysed MAC-infected but not uninfected monocytes during a 4-hr assay. Infected monocytes were less sensitive to cell-mediated killing than the standard natural killer (NK) cell-sensitive cell line K562, although the kinetics of lysis were similar. The release of lymphocyte-derived mediators such as tumor necrosis factor, interleukin-2 (IL-2), and interferon-alpha and -gamma could not be implicated as a cause of monocyte death. Through the use of cell-specific monoclonal antibodies plus complement, the phenotype of the effector cell was that of an NK cell (CD3 negative, partially CD8 negative, and CD16 positive). The use of highly purified, negatively selected NK cells confirmed these results. NK cell-mediated lysis of infected monocytes decreased MAC viability, indicating that this cytotoxic activity would not favor dissemination of the organism. The killing of MAC-infected monocytes was reduced by K562 cells, suggesting that these targets shared common recognition/binding structures. These results suggest that NK-cell function may be important in the prevention of or response to MAC infection and may help explain the predilection of AIDS patients to develop widespread disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)71-77
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Clinical Immunology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1990


  • cytotoxicity
  • monocytes
  • mycobacteria
  • Natural killer cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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