Separation of LAK precursor (LAKp) cells (as defined by LAK effector generation after incubation with IL-2 for 7 d) from cells with NK activity/LGL morphology was achieved on Percoll gradients using a longer, slower centrifugation than that used for optimal NK enrichment. mAb were generated using the various Percoll fractions as the immunizing cells and used for separation and depletion studies. Two mAbs DM-1 (IgM,k) and DM-2 (IgM,k) recognizing 2-15% and 15-30% of PBL, respectively, abrogated a large proportion of LAK generative potential after complement depletion, but had little effect on NK or LAK effector activity. Cell sorting experiments indicated that the majority of LAKp cells are found within the DM-1+ population and that DM-1+ cells are not simply an accessory cell required for LAKp generation. Further, these two mAbs do not recognize cells that are responsible for generating cytotoxicity during MLC or co-culture with the PR-1 EBV lymphoblastoid cell line. Western blot analysis indicated that DM-1 and DM-2 recognize a 38,000 and 44,000 dalton moiety, respectively. The frequency of cells bearing these antigens and the intensity of cell surface staining decreased during the 7-d culture period, suggesting that these antibodies recognize determinants found only at the precursor level. These findings indicate that cells other than NK effectors or mature T cells are capable of generating a LAK cell response. These LAK precursor cells share a common differentiation surface antigen and are different from AK or antigen-specific CTL precursors. The possibility exists that these cells are identical to, or include, the NK precursor cell.

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