Stimulation of human peripheral blood mononuclear cells by zinc and related cations

Cytokine. 1996 Oct;8(10):767-71. doi: 10.1006/cyto.1996.0102.


Zinc is an important trace element for immune function. Here, we show that zinc addition in a serum- and lipopolysaccharide-free cell culture system leads to significantly enhanced levels of interleukin 1 beta (IL-1 beta) and tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) and to expression of the corresponding mRNA in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC). Structurally related divalent cations like cobalt, nickel, and mercury also partially increase monokine secretion but to a much lower and thus insignificant extent. They fail to induce mRNA of TNF-alpha after 3 h of culture. Therefore, monokine induction is a zinc-specific effect influenced by the physicochemical properties of the ion. Confirmation of the unique significance of zinc for immune function provides a better understanding of the mechanisms of specific zinc-mediated immune modulation.

MeSH terms

  • Cobalt / pharmacology
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-1 / metabolism*
  • Kinetics
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / drug effects*
  • Mercury / pharmacology
  • Nickel / pharmacology
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Transcription Factor TFIIIA
  • Transcription Factors / pharmacology
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism*
  • Zinc / pharmacology*


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Interleukin-1
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Transcription Factor TFIIIA
  • Transcription Factors
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Cobalt
  • Nickel
  • Mercury
  • Zinc