We have analyzed the ability of highly purified preparations of human NK cells to produce CSF. NK cells, purified by negative selection from 10-d cultures of PBMC incubated with irradiated B-lymphoblastoid cell lines, were stimulated with rIL-2, FcR(CD16) ligands (particulate immune complexes or anti-CD16 antibodies bound to Sepharose), a combination of CD16 ligands and rIL-2, or the phorbol diester phorbol dibutyrate (PDBu) together with the Ca2+ ionophore A23187. Both rIL-2 and CD16 ligands induce accumulation of GM-CSF mRNA in NK cells and the combined effect of the two stimuli is synergistic. Maximal accumulation of GM-CSF mRNA is observed after PDBu/A23187 stimulation. The participation of contaminant T cells in the observed expression of the GM-CSF gene is excluded because CD16 ligands do not stimulate T cells and CD3 ligands, powerful stimulators of T cells, are inactive on NK cells. Accumulation of CSF-1 mRNA is observed only in NK cells stimulated with both CD16 ligands and rIL-2, whereas accumulation of IL-3 mRNA is observed only in NK cells stimulated with PDBu/A23187. Transcripts of the G-CSF, IL-1 alpha, and IL-1 beta genes were never detected in NK cells in these experiments. The kinetics of accumulation of GM-CSF and CSF-1 mRNA in NK cells stimulated with CD16 ligands and rIL-2 peaked at 2-4 h and was slower than that of TNF and IFN-gamma mRNA, which peak at 1 h. GM-CSF was precipitated from the supernatant fluids of NK cells stimulated with PDBu/A23187 and its biological activity was demonstrated by the ability of the supernatants to sustain proliferation of the TALL-101 cell line or CML blasts. Biological activity of IL-3 and CSF-1 was demonstrable in supernatant fluids of NK cells stimulated with PDBu/A23187 and CD16 ligands/rIL-2, respectively.

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