The initial interaction between migration inhibitory factor (MIF) and the guinea pig alveolar and peritoneal macrophage was studied. MIF-containing supernatants were generated from sensitized lymph node lymphocytes obtained from guinea pigs immunized with bovine gamma globulin in complete Freund's adjuvant. MIF-containing supernatants were markedly inhibitory for the migration of the peritoneal macrophage but had no effect on the alveolar macrophage. A linear relationship was observed between per cent inhibition of migration and serial twofold dilution of supernatant. Reexpressed in arbitrary MIF units, this relationship reflects a dose-response relationship with saturation characteristics. Pulse exposure of peritoneal macrophages to MIF resulted in adsorption of MIF onto both viable and nonviable cells with corresponding depletion of supernatant MIF. The alveolar macrophage did not adsorb MIF. Pulse adsorption of MIF onto the peritoneal macrophage is dependent on time, temperature, and cell number. Pretreatment of the cells with proteolytic enzyme prevents the adsorption of MIF while leaving migration unaffected. These observations support the existence of a specific cell surface receptor for MIF. The existence of such a receptor provides selectivity of immune modulation of macrophage populations by lymphocytes in delayed hypersensitivity reactions.

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