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T cell clones derived from patients with autoimmune diseases were found to be capable of producing tumor necrosis factor (TNF). This was demonstrated by stimulating the clones, in the absence of accessory cells, with antibodies against the Ti/T3 complex and with recombinant interleukin 2 (IL2). Analysis of RNA extracted from these clones showed that TNF mRNA was more abundant than lymphotoxin (LT) mRNA. We also found that TNF protein in the supernatants of these clones was generally more abundant than LT as assessed by using the murine L929 cell assay. TNF production was not limited to T cells from autoimmune individuals, since the T cell tumor HUT78 and T cells purified from the peripheral blood of healthy individuals also made TNF. Unlike the T cell clones, HUT78 produced greater amounts of LT mRNA than TNF mRNA. Induction of TNF mRNA in T cells from healthy individuals displayed a two-signal requirement (phorbol myristate 13-acetate and phytohemagglutinin or OKT3 and phorbol myristate 13-acetate), similar to that described for the induction of the T cell lymphokines IL 2 and interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma). Additionally we found that IL2 alone was sufficient to induce TNF in these cells when they had been precultured with phytohemagglutinin for 7 days to express IL 2 receptors. The cloned T cells we have characterized also produce IFN-gamma which was detected in the supernatants of the clones using a radioimmunoassay. The evidence suggests that T cells can produce TNF and have the potential to deliver by themselves the dual and synergistic signals of TNF/LT and IFN-gamma to target cells, a process which may be of importance in the pathogenesis of human autoimmunity.

Original publication




Journal article


Eur J Immunol

Publication Date





1807 - 1814


Antigens, Differentiation, T-Lymphocyte, Autoimmune Diseases, Humans, Interferon-gamma, Lymphokines, Lymphotoxin-alpha, RNA, Messenger, T-Lymphocytes, Tetradecanoylphorbol Acetate, Tumor Cells, Cultured, Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha