Divergent cell-specific effects of activin-A on thymocyte proliferation stimulated by phytohemagglutinin, and interleukin 1β or interleukin 6 in vitro

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Activin-A is a member of the transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) cytokine family. Based on studies in several cell systems, activin-A has been postulated to be a specific inhibitor of the actions of the inflammatory cytokine, interleukin 6. In cultures of adult rat thymocytes, activin-A inhibited sub-optimal phytohemagglutinin-induced and interleukin 1β-stimulated proliferation, as measured by [3H]-thymidine incorporation in vitro. In contrast with TGF-β1, which exerted similar inhibitory effects on thymocyte proliferation, activin-A activity was reduced by increasing the concentration of phytohemagglutinin or addition of the reducing agent, β-mercaptoethanol. Both activin-A and TGF-β1 inhibited the in vitro production of interleukin 6 by thymocytes in the presence of phytohemagglutinin and interleukin 1β. In the presence of exogenous interleukin 6, however, both activin-A and TGF-β1 stimulated thymocyte proliferation. These data suggest that activin-A inhibits thymocyte growth and differentiation, at least in part, by inhibiting endogenous production of interleukin 6, but stimulates thymocyte growth when exogenous interleukin 6 is present in vitro. These data indicate that activin interacts with other cytokines to exert complex regulation of T cell development, and is not an inhibitor of interleukin 6 action in all cell systems. (C) 2000 Academic Press.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)595-602
Number of pages8
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Activin
  • Interleukin 6
  • Plasmacytoma
  • T cell
  • Transforming growth factor-β

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