A unique lymphocyte lineage, the Valpha14 NKT cells, expresses both NK1.1 and an invariant antigen receptor encoded by Valpha14 and Jalpha281 gene segments. Valpha14 NKT cells play crucial roles in various immune responses, including autoimmune diseases, allergic reactions and anti-tumor immunity. Valpha14 NKT cells were demonstrated to be essential for anti-tumor effect of IL-12 in vivo. Here, we report that adoptive transfer of IL-12-activated Valpha14 NKT cells prevents hepatic metastasis of B16 melanoma. The injection of large amounts of IL-2, IL-4, and IFN-gamma, which are cytokines produced by activated Valpha14 NKT cells, exhibited no significant inhibition of the metastasis of this melanoma. The cells prepared from the liver of IL-12-injected mice expressed a potent cytotoxic activity on B16 melanoma cells in vitro. Although the adoptive transfer of IL-12-activated Valpha14 NKT cells prevents hepatic metastasis of B16 melanoma, activated NK cells from IL-12-injected RAG-1-/- mice failed to inhibit the metastasis of this melanoma. Thus, the anti-tumor effect of IL-12 can be replaced by adoptive transfer of IL-12-activated Valpha14 NKT cells but not by IL-12-activated NK cells, suggesting a minor role of NK cells for the IL-12-mediated anti-tumor effect in this experimental system. Moreover, our studies have suggested the involvement of direct cytotoxic mechanisms rather than cytokine-mediated immune responses at the effector phase of the Valpha14 NKT cell-mediated anti-tumor activity.
Copyright 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.