IL-13 production by NK cells: IL-13-producing NK and T cells are present in vivo in the absence of IFN-gamma

J Immunol. 1999 Jan 1;162(1):51-9.


In this study, we demonstrate that human NK cells, human NK clones, the human NK cell line (NK3.3), and a population of murine NK cells can produce the type 2 cytokine IL-13 in response to IL-2 or phorbol myristate acetate plus ionomycin. IL-2 rapidly induced new IL-13 mRNA and protein synthesis in the NK3.3 cell line. Six of 12 human NK clones tested produced IL-13 protein in response to IL-2 or phorbol myristate acetate and ionomycin. Intracellular analysis revealed that approximately 2% of human peripheral NK cells produced IL-13 protein in response to IL-2. Isolated NK cells from SCID and RAG-2 knockout (-/-) mice that lack T and B cells as well as normal mice also can produce IL-13 mRNA and protein in response to IL-2. We hypothesized that in the absence of IFN-gamma, IL-13-producing NK cells may predominate in vivo. Utilizing IFN-gamma knockout (-/-) mice as a model system, IL-2-activated liver NK and T cells expressed 10-fold more IL-13 and IL-5 mRNA and protein than normal controls following IL-2 treatment in vitro. These results suggest that in the absence of IFN-gamma, an IL-13- and IL-5-producing NK and T cells predominate in vivo. The existence of this cell type has important implications in innate immunity given that the balance between IFN-gamma and IL-13/IL-5-producing NK cells may influence the early development of a cell-mediated or humoral immune response.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Clone Cells
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • Humans
  • Interferon-gamma / deficiency*
  • Interferon-gamma / genetics*
  • Interleukin-13 / biosynthesis*
  • Interleukin-2 / pharmacology
  • Interleukin-5 / biosynthesis
  • Killer Cells, Natural / metabolism*
  • Liver / cytology
  • Liver / immunology
  • Lymphocyte Subsets / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mice, SCID
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Spleen / cytology
  • Spleen / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism*
  • Transposases / genetics


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Interleukin-13
  • Interleukin-2
  • Interleukin-5
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • RAG2 protein, human
  • Rag2 protein, mouse
  • V(D)J recombination activating protein 2
  • Interferon-gamma
  • Transposases