Four cell-secreted cytokines act synergistically to maintain long term proliferation of human B cell lines in vitro

J Immunol. 1992 Oct 15;149(8):2785-94.


Autocrine production of growth factors is thought to be an essential element in the development of hemopoietic tumors in vivo. Tumor-derived cell lines frequently show this capability in vitro. It is not understood how autonomous growth in vitro is maintained by lymphoid cell lines that are not of tumorigenic origin. We have previously established human B cell clones that proliferate in serum-free media with unlimited potential. However, the cells need a critical density for continuous growth. Culture supernatant conditioned by these cell lines sustained proliferation even in low density cultures. All B cell clones analyzed were found to secrete the cytokines IL-1 alpha, IL-6, TNF-alpha, and TNF-beta whereas no activity of IL-2, IL-4, low m. w.-B cell growth factor, CSF, or IFN-gamma was recorded. In low density cultures supplemented with rIL-1 alpha, +/- IL-6, +/- TNF-alpha, and +/- TNF-beta together, B cell proliferation is maintained to the same extent as with conditioned medium. Addition of anti-sense oligonucleotides directed to the mRNA of IL-1 alpha, IL-6, and TNF-alpha, respectively, resulted in growth arrest and cell death. This effect could be prevented by supplementation with these cytokines. Scatchard plot analyses and internalization studies revealed that the cells express on their surface high affinity receptors for IL-1 alpha, IL-6, and TNF, respectively, and internalize the cytokines from the supernatant. These results demonstrate that (i) autonomous growth of immortalized B cells is maintained by secretion and reinternalization of IL-1 alpha, IL-6, TNF-alpha, and TNF-beta, (ii) these cytokines act in a synergistic fashion, and (iii) autocrine growth stimulation of human B cells in vitro does not necessarily represent their tumorigenic potential in vivo.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Base Sequence
  • Cell Line
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-1 / physiology*
  • Interleukin-6 / physiology*
  • Lymphocyte Activation*
  • Lymphotoxin-alpha / physiology*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense / pharmacology
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / analysis
  • Receptors, Immunologic / analysis
  • Receptors, Interleukin-1 / analysis
  • Receptors, Interleukin-6
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / physiology*


  • Interleukin-1
  • Interleukin-6
  • Lymphotoxin-alpha
  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • Receptors, Immunologic
  • Receptors, Interleukin-1
  • Receptors, Interleukin-6
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha