Triggered human mucosal T cells release tumour necrosis factor-alpha and interferon-gamma which kill human colonic epithelial cells

Clin Exp Immunol. 1991 Jan;83(1):79-84. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2249.1991.tb05592.x.


T cell activation can lead to local tissue injury in organ culture studies of human fetal jejunum, either directly through cytotoxicity or indirectly by the release of cytotoxic cytokines. The goal of this study was to establish in vitro whether cytotoxic cytokines can be released by isolated colonic T cells and what cytokine interactions are required for killing of human colonic epithelial cells. Cytokine-containing supernatants were induced by incubating unseparated lamina propria lymphocytes (LPL) or mucosal T cell subpopulations (separated by indirect panning) with anti-CD3 and/or K562 target cells for 18 h at 37 degrees C. Cytokines were measured by cytotoxicity assays using L929 (murine fibroblast) and HT-29 (human colonic tumour) lines as target cells in combination with blocking anti-cytokine antibodies. Supernatants derived from unseparated, CD4+ (greater than 95% pure) and CD8+ (greater than 90% pure) LPL were cytotoxic to L929 targets (350 U/ml, 230 U/ml and 100 U/ml tumour necrosis factor-alpha, respectively). All or nearly all of the cytotoxicity was due to the presence of tumour necrosis factor-alpha (little or no tumour necrosis factor-beta was detected). These same supernatants were cytotoxic (up to 32% lysis at 1/4 dilution) to HT-29 targets in a 48-h 111In release assay. Recombinant tumour necrosis factor-alpha and interferon-gamma alone produced minimal killing of HT-29, but together killed the HT-29 target cells. Anti-tumour necrosis factor-alpha or anti-interferon-gamma alone blocked killing of HT-29 target cells by LPL-derived supernatants, although anti-tumour necrosis factor-beta had no effect upon killing of HT-29. These results demonstrate that human LPL T cells, triggered by addition of anti-CD3 and target cells, produce tumour necrosis factor-alpha and interferon-gamma, both of which are required for optimal killing of HT-29. Simultaneous release of these cytokines in the vicinity of epithelial cells during immune responses could play an important role in the mucosal damage in chronic inflammatory states such as inflammatory bowel disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antigens, CD / immunology
  • Cell Survival
  • Colon / immunology*
  • Cytotoxicity, Immunologic / immunology*
  • Epithelium / metabolism
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Humans
  • Interferon-gamma / metabolism*
  • Interferon-gamma / physiology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / immunology*
  • Lymphocyte Activation / immunology
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / physiology


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antigens, CD
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Interferon-gamma