Mononuclear cells (MNC) isolated from malaria immune donors and from donors never exposed to malaria were stimulated in vitro with soluble purified Plasmodium falciparum antigens (SPag) or PPD. After 7 days of culture the proliferative response and the cytotoxic activity against the natural killer cell (NK cell) sensitive cell line, K562, were measured. It was found that SPag stimulation enhanced cytotoxic activity of MNC from donors whose lymphocytes exhibited a strong proliferative response to the antigen. MNC with low proliferative responsiveness showed increased cytotoxic activity if the MNC were preincubated with interleukin 2 (IL-2) for one hour before the start of the cytotoxic assay. SPag activation did not enhance the cytotoxic activity of MNC which did not respond to the antigen in the proliferation assay, and preincubation of these cells with IL-2 did not increase the activity. PPD stimulation enhanced the cytotoxic activity and induced strong proliferative responses in all MNC preparations. The role of NK cells in the protection against malaria is unknown, but they play a role in the protection against virus infection and in the immune surveillance against cancer. Our findings indicate that malaria antigens either directly or through the activation of immunoregulatory cells enhance the NK cell activity.
Keywords: Animals; Antigens, Protozoan; Cytotoxicity, Immunologic; Humans; Immunity, Cellular; Interferons; Interleukin-2; Killer Cells, Natural; Leukocytes, Mononuclear; Lymphocyte Activation; Plasmodium falciparum; Tuberculin; Tumor Cells, Cultured