Stem cell factor enhances interleukin-2-mediated expansion of murine natural killer cells in vivo

Todd A. Fehniger, William E. Carson, Ewa Mrózek, Michael A. Caligiuri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


The administration of low dose interleukin-2 (IL-2) results in a selective expansion of natural killer (NK) cells in vivo, and promotes the differentiation of NK cells from hematopoietic precursor cells in vitro. We have previously shown that stem ceil factor (SCF), the ligand to the c-kit tyrosine kinase receptor, enhances IL-2-induced NK cell proliferation and differentiation in vitro. Here, we investigated the effects of SCF plus IL-2 delivered to mice in vivo. Eight-week-old C57BL/6 mice were treated with a continuous subcutaneous infusion of IL-2 (1 x 104 IU/d) plus a daily intraperitoneal dose of SCF (100 μg/kg/d), IL-2 alone, SCF alone, or vehicle alone for 8 weeks. The in vivo serum concentration of IL-2 ranged between 352 ± 12.0 pg/mL and 606 ± 9.0 pg/mL, achieving selective saturation of the high affinity IL-2 receptor, while the peak SCF serum concentration was 296 ± 13.09 ng/mL. Alone, the daily administration of SCF had no effect on the expansion of NK cells. The continuous infusion of IL-2 alone did result in a significant expansion of NK1.1+CD3- cells compared to mice treated with placebo or SCF. However, mice treated with both SCF and IL-2 showed an increase in the absolute number of NK cells that was more than twofold that seen with IL-2 alone, in the spleen (P ≤ .005), bone marrow (P ≤ .025), and blood (P < .05). NK cytotoxic activity against YAC-1 target ceils was significantly higher for mice treated with SCF plus IL-2, compared to mice treated with IL-2 alone (P ≤ .0005). Interferon-γ (IFN-γ) production in cytokine-activated splenocytes was also greater for the SCF plus IL-2 group, over IL-2 treatment alone (P ≤ .01). The effect of SCF plus IL-2 on NK cell expansion was likely mediated via NK cell precursors, rather than mature NK cells. In summary, we provide the first evidence that SCF can significantly enhance expansion of functional NK cells induced by the prolonged administration of low dose IL-2 in vivo. Since the NK cell is a cytotoxic innate immune effector and a potent source of IFN-γ this therapeutic strategy for NK cell expansion may serve to further enhance innate immune surveillance against malignant transformation and infection in the setting of cancor and/or immunodeficiency.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3647-3653
Number of pages7
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1997


Dive into the research topics of 'Stem cell factor enhances interleukin-2-mediated expansion of murine natural killer cells in vivo'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this