Lymphocyte proliferation induced by the tumor promoter 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (TPA) is inhibited by agents known to induce differentiation in murine erythroleukemia cells and other cell lines. In the present study, we determined the cellular targets for the action of TPA among murine thymocyte subpopulations, the phase of blastogenesis that is activated by the tumor promoter, and the phase that is inhibited by the differentiating agents. Mouse thymocytes were fractionated into populations bearing receptors for peanut agglutinin (PNA; PNA-positive cells) and populations lacking such receptors (PNA-negative cells). TPA is comitogenic for lectin-treated, unfractionated thymocytes and PNA-negative thymocytes but not for PNA-positive thymocytes. PNA-negative cells, a minor population in unfractionated thymocytes, are therefore the cellular targets for the comitogenic activity of TPA. TPA induces the production of interleukin-2 (IL-2) in lectin-treated PNA-negative populations but not in PNA-positive cells. The differentiating agents inhibit TPA-mediated proliferation of unfractionated and PNA-negative, lectin-treated thymocytes. In contrast, IL-2-mediated proliferation of lectin-treated thymocyte subpopulations is resistant to inhibition by these agents. Inhibition appears to be related to decreased production of IL-2, since the differentiating agents inhibit IL-2 production by both PNA-negative thymocytes and by a human leukemic cell line.


This work was supported in part by a grant from The Sylvan League Fund.

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