Author(s): Xing Z, Zganiacz A, Santosuosso M
IL-12 is believed to play an important role in cell-mediated immunity against intracellular infection primarily by acting on T and NK cells. Recent evidence has suggested, however, that IL-12 has broader cellular targets than previously thought. In this study, we examined the role of IL-12 in macrophage TNF-alpha and nitric oxide (NO) release by using an in vitro model of intracellular infection. IL-12 alone released relatively little TNF-alpha and NO, whereas live mycobacteria alone released TNF-alpha markedly but little NO from murine alveolar macrophages. However, IL-12 and mycobacteria together enhanced TNF-alpha and NO release synergistically. Because IL-12 and mycobacteria also released IFN-gamma from macrophages synergistically, and exogenous IFN-gamma with mycobacteria enhanced TNF-alpha and NO release synergistically, we examined the role of endogenous IFN-gamma in IL-12/mycobacteria-stimulated macrophage activation. Using macrophages from mice deficient in IFN-gamma, we found that IL-12/mycobacteria-enhanced macrophage TNF-alpha and NO release was mediated through endogenous IFN-gamma. We further demonstrated that IFN-gamma and mycobacteria together had a selective effect on macrophage cytokine release because they released TNF-alpha synergistically but not macrophage chemotactic protein-1 (MCP-1). These findings reveal that IL-12 can activate macrophages potently during intracellular infection, and this activating effect is mediated primarily through its effect on macrophage IFN-gamma release.