Inhibition of lung natural killer cell activity by smoking: the role of alveolar macrophages

Respiration. 2001;68(3):262-7. doi: 10.1159/000050508.


Background: It is known that natural killer (NK) cell activity in the lung of smokers (SM) is lower than in non-smokers (NS). However, little is known about the underlying mechanisms.

Objective: The purpose of this work was to investigate the mechanisms of the inhibition of NK cell activity by alveolar macrophages (AM) in SM.

Methods: Lung effector cells and AM were obtained using bronchoalveolar lavage. The NK cell activity was assayed by 51Cr release method after incubation of 4 and 24 h, using K562 as target cell. AM were added at a concentration of 25% to effector cells.

Results: Following 24-hour culture, NK cell activity significantly increased in the NS but not in the SM. Lung NK cell activity was significantly augmented by interleukin-2 in the NS but not in the SM. Addition of AM to the NK cell preparation from SM exerted a significantly greater suppressive effect on autologous blood NK cell activity than in the NS. Indomethacin, catalase or thiourea did not prevent AM-mediated suppression of NK cell activity, in contrast to superoxide dismutase.

Conclusions: These results suggest that the suppression of NK cell activity by AM in SM may be caused by O2- release rather than by prostaglandins, H2O2 or OH release from AM.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid
  • Humans
  • Killer Cells, Natural / physiology*
  • Lung / cytology*
  • Macrophages, Alveolar / physiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Smoking / physiopathology*