In this study we addressed the question of whether lymphokine-activated killer (LAK) cells, besides killing neoplastic cells, may exert a certain degree of lysis on the normal counterpart; in particular we took into consideration the toxicity against pulmonary alveolar macrophages (PAM). We demonstrated that human LAK cells generated in vitro following incubation of peripheral blood mononuclear cells with recombinant interleukin 2 for 4 days were able to lyse normal PAM in a 4-h 51Cr release assay. Similarly, PAM recovered from patients suffering from nonneoplastic interstitial lung disorders, i.e., sarcoidosis and hypersensitivity pneumonitis, were shown to be susceptible to the cytotoxic function provided by LAK cells. Both autologous and allogeneic PAM were lysed by LAK cells, thus suggesting that the phenomenon we observed does not require a major histocompatibility complex restriction. Preincubation of PAM under study with γ-interferon did not affect their susceptibility to the lysis mediated by LAK cells. Furthermore, cold target inhibition assay demonstrated that normal PAM could efficiently compete with both NK-sensitive and NK-resistant target lines for the binding sites on LAK cells, thus indicating that the putative receptor(s), or at least the mechanism of target recognition, is shared by PAM and these different target cell lines. The evidence herein provided that LAK cells are cytotoxic to normal, nontransformed PAM points out that the pathogenetic mechanisms involving this self-addressed lytic activity could account for some adverse reactions related to LAK/interleukin 2 immunotherapy.

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Supported in part by the Associazione Italiana per la Ricerca sul Cancro, Milan, Italy.

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