We have examined the possibility that hyperthermia, such as that occurring during fever, may benefit the immune response. The effect of temperature on the in vitro immune response of unprimed murine spleen cells against the antigen sheep erythrocytes was tested. Hyperthermia potently augmented the plaque-forming cell response. Temperature-sensitive events occurred early in the culture period. Subsets of lymphocytes were independently assessed for effects of temperature on their activation and function. We showed that the beneficial effect of elevated temperature on the plaque-forming cell response probably occurs during the priming stage of T helper cells, and neither improves the delivery of help or the activation of B cells, nor impairs suppressor T cell generation or function. We propose that this powerful immunopotentiating effect of hyperthermia may account for the selective value of the fever response. This suggests taht the monokine interleukin 1, which is the endogenous mediator of fever, may promote immune responses both through a direct action on lymphocytes, and indirectly by an action on the central nervous system resulting in fever.

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