We show here that human peripheral blood NK cells contain a pore-forming protein (PFP) with an Mr of 70,000-72,000 that assembles structural lesions (with an average internal diameter of 150-170 A) and forms functional channels. The PFP was isolated by affinity chromatography from human NK cells, using a specific anti-C9 antiserum as the immunoadsorbent. The NK cells were isolated from PBL by positive or negative selection by indirect rosetting using a panel of monoclonal antibodies directed against different NK and T cell surface antigens. PFP was identified in NK cells freshly isolated and isolated from cultured PBL, both stimulated with interleukin 2, but not in NK cell-depleted lymphocytes. In planar bilayers, the channels formed by the NK cell-derived PFP are highly voltage resistant, with most channels persisting in the open state once they have inserted into the bilayer. The unit conductances of these channels range 0.3-1 nS in 0.1 M NaCl. The channels show poor selectivity for monovalent and divalent ions. The PFP is also released from human NK cells stimulated with the calcium ionophore A23187, suggesting that this protein, like the one produced by murine CTL lines, may be similarly secreted during cell-mediated killing. Its identification in primary human NK cell cultures indicates that this protein may play an active role in NK cell-mediated killing.

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