Glucocorticosteroids (GCS) added to otherwise unstimulated cultures of human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) induce the synthesis and secretion of all classes of immunoglobulin. The magnitude of this response is similar to that seen with other polyclonal B cell activators such as pokeweed mitogen (PWM), and like that of PWM, the steroid effect is dependent on both T cells and monocytes. To determine the cellular target for GCS in these cultures, separated populations of T cells and non-T cells were preincubated with steroids and then recombined. No immunoglobulin was produced in any of these preincubation experiments. As a different approach to this question, supernatants were collected from various cell populations following stimulation with PWM, concanavalin A (Con A), phytohemagglutinin (PHA), alloantigens, or GCS. These supernatants were tested for their effects on GCS-induced Ig production by B cells. Supernatants from 3-d cultures of unstimulated, as well as GCS-treated, PBMC contained a T cell-replacing factor that permitted T-depleted PBMC to produce Ig upon steroid stimulation. This supernatant factor (TRF-S) could be produced in the absence of steroid stimulation, but both the factor and GCS were necessary for the induction of Ig synthesis. Production of the TRF-S required the presence of both T cells and adherent cells in culture and was found in the highest concentrations at 3-4 d of culture. Supernatants from cultures stimulated with PWM, PHA, Con A, and alloantigens did not contain detectable TRF-S activity, and TRF-S was unable to replace helper T cells for PWM-induced Ig production. TRF-S required the presence of adherent cells in the T cell-depleted responder population for its action. Further, it was effective in inducing Ig production along with GCS in the presence of a sufficient concentration of cyclosporin A to block all T cell helper activity for primary responses of PBMC to PWM or GCS. TRF-S was inactivated by trypsin treatment, heating to 56 degrees C, freezing, lyophilization, and storage at 4 degrees C for greater than 3 wk. Its molecular weight is probably 10,000 daltons or more, since TRF-S activity is not rapidly dialyzable. These experiments indicate that GCS-induced Ig production by human B cells does not require the presence of intact T cells in the cultures and therefore the steroids are not exerting their influence directly on T suppressor or T helper cells. Furthermore, they demonstrate a previously unrecognized cytokine that induces the differentiation of human B cells to Ig production in the presence of GCS.

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