The capacity of rabbit mononuclear cells to release an endogenous pyrogen (EP) in vitro has been studied.
After incubation with tuberculin, preparations of predominantly monocytic cells, derived from the respiratory passages of the lungs of rabbits sensitized with BCG, were activated to release EP. Pyrogen production occurred more slowly with lung monocytes than with blood leukocytes of similarly sensitized rabbits and 9 to 10 hr incubation in a fully supportive medium was required to produce clear-cut results. As previously reported with blood leukocytes, mononuclear cells from the lungs of normal animals were also activated by tuberculin but to a lesser degree than were those from specifically sensitized rabbits.
Under a variety of conditions, mononuclear cells from either spleen or lymph nodes of the same sensitized rabbits failed to release detectable amounts of pyrogen when incubated with tuberculin in vitro but were activated in a majority of instances when phagocytosis of heat-killed staphylococci was used as the stimulus.
Release of pyrogen from lung monocytes appears to be an active process that is both temperature-dependent and requires protein synthesis. Neither serum antibody nor complement appears to play a role in this process.
Evidence is presented that the granulocyte is the main source of pyrogen evolved by blood leukocytes incubated in vitro with OT or heat-killed staphylococci, whereas the lung macrophage and/or monocyte is responsible for most of the pyrogen released from the lung cell preparations.
From these studies, it is concluded that mononuclear cells can be activated in vitro by several microbial stimuli and must be considered an additional cellular source of EP. The clinical implications of these findings for the pathogenesis of fever in granulomatous diseases where the monocyte is the predominant cell are discussed.