The cell surface phenotype of human natural interferon-alpha producing cells as determined by flow cytometry

Scand J Immunol. 1996 Aug;44(2):164-72. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-3083.1996.d01-289.x.


The relationship between the so-called natural interferon-alpha (IFN-alpha) producing cell (IPC), stimulated to produce IFN-alpha by herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV), and of dendritic cells (DC) in peripheral blood leucocytes was investigated. The simultaneous expression of cell surface antigens and intracellular IFN-alpha in the HSV-stimulated IPC (HSV-IPC) was examined by flow cytometry (FCM). The HSV-IPC were infrequent, < 0.3% of the mononuclear leucocytes, and with homogeneous light scatter characteristics. The HSV-IPC were confirmed to lack leucocyte lineage specific markers, and to express CD4, CD36 and HLA-DR. Furthermore, they expressed high levels of CD44, CD45RA and CD45RB, and lower levels of CD40, CD45R0, CD72 and CD83. The HSV-IPC expression of CD13, CD33 and Fc epsilon RI were weak but significant, while no CD5, CD11b, CD16, CD64, CD80 or CD86 were detected. Sorted pure HSV-IPC had irregular shaped nuclei, many mitochondria and vesicles, and rugged cell membranes without veils. Sorted HSV-IPC stimulated proliferation of autologous T cells from HSV immune donors. Thus, the HSV-IPC in many respects resemble immature DC, but clearly differ from typical mature DC. However, they may also represent a specialized population of efficient IFN-alpha producing cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, CD / analysis
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Humans
  • Interferon-alpha / biosynthesis*
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / immunology*
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Phenotype
  • Simplexvirus / physiology
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology


  • Antigens, CD
  • Interferon-alpha