Human monocytes were activated to secrete alpha interferon (IFN-alpha) by poly IC/LC but not by other monocyte activators, such as muramyl dipeptide (MDP). In contrast, monocytes were activated to secrete fibroblast growth factor (FGF) release by MDP but not by poly IC/LC. The amount of total RNA present in unactivated and activated human monocytes was similar. Using two 32P-labeled cDNA probes (pLM001 and HuIFN-alpha 2) for human IFN-alpha genes in hybridization studies, we analyzed messenger RNA species from this gene family in activated human monocytes. After activation with poly IC/LC, two other mRNA species (2.8 and 5.5 kb) were detected in addition to the 1.0 kb mRNA normally associated with IFN-alpha secretion. Unexpectedly, monocytes activated with MDP also contained 2.8 kb IFN-alpha mRNA. There was associated with this 2.8 kb IFN-alpha mRNA, found in MDP-activated monocytes, appreciable levels of intracellular IFN-alpha activity in the absence of detectable secreted IFN-alpha. Thus the secretion of IFN-alpha in activated human monocytes can be correlated with the appearance of a 1.0 kb mRNA species after poly IC/LC exposure. Secretion appears to be defective in MDP-stimulated monocytes even though they contain active intracellular IFN-alpha apparently translated from the 2.8 kb mRNA.

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