Evaluation of a test system for measuring cytokine production in human whole blood cell cultures

J Immunol Methods. 1991 Jun 3;139(2):191-5. doi: 10.1016/0022-1759(91)90188-l.


A simple and reproducible method is described for the measurement of mitogen-induced cytokine production in cultures of both human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) and whole blood. In the culture supernatants the cytokines interleukin-1 alpha (IL-1 alpha), interleukin-2 (IL-2), interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) were determined by a rapid and sensitive immunoassay using various monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies. Comparing the PBMC cultures with the whole blood system a good correlation was obtained if the cell number was taken into account. In the post-induction supernatants the cytokine values were found to follow typical kinetic curves. The protocol was evaluated by screening 60 cancer patients with primary disease and 60 healthy controls. A markedly reduced secretion of IFN-gamma and IL-1 alpha was found in the cancer patients compared to controls, although leukocyte and lymphocyte counts were almost identical in both groups.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Cells / metabolism*
  • Cell Division
  • Cell Separation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis*
  • Cytokines / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoassay / methods
  • Interferon-gamma / biosynthesis
  • Interleukin-1 / biosynthesis
  • Interleukin-2 / biosynthesis
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / metabolism*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / blood
  • Phytohemagglutinins / pharmacology
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / biosynthesis


  • Cytokines
  • Interleukin-1
  • Interleukin-2
  • Phytohemagglutinins
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Interferon-gamma