Natural-killer (NK)-cell function was profoundly depressed in donors homozygous for the Chediak-Steinbrinck-Higashi syndrome (C-HS) gene when compared with age- and sex-matched normals. This apparent defect was not simply a result of a delayed response because little cytolysis was evident in kinetics experiments even after 24 h of incubation. NK cells from C-HS donors failed to lyse adherent (MDA, CEM, and Alab) or nonadherent (K562 and Molt-4) tumor cell lines or nontransformed human fetal fibroblasts. Therefore, the apparent C-HS defect was not a result of a shift in target selectivities. In addition, the depressed reactivity did not appear to be a result of suppressor cells or factors because: (a) enriched NK populations (nonadherent lymphocytes bearing receptors for the Fc portion of IgG) from C-HS donors were low in NK-cell function, (b) C-HS mononuclear cells did not inhibit the cytotoxicity of normal cells in coculture experiments, and (c) cells from the C-HS donors remained poorly reactive even after culture for up to 7 d. The nature of the defective NK activity in C-HS patients is not clear but may lie within the lytic mechanism rather than at the level of the recognition structure or population size because the frequency of target-binding cells was normal. In vitro NK activity could be partially restored by interferon treatment. Combined with the results presented in the following paper (4), these observations suggest that the C-HS gene causes a selective immunodeficiency disorder, mainly involving NK cells. This finding, in conjunction with the high incidence of spontaneous possibly malignant, lymphoproliferative disorders in these patients, may have important implications regarding the theory of immune surveillance mediated by NK cells.

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