DAO 46:129-137 (2001)  -  doi:10.3354/dao046129

Phosphorylation-induced activation of tilapia nonspecific cytotoxic cells by serum cytokines

Jaime Ruiz, John H. Leary III, Liliana Jaso-Friedmann*

Department of Medical Microbiology and Parasitology, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia 30602-7386, USA
*Corresponding author. E-mail:

ABSTRACT: Cytokines as soluble mediators of immunity are important in understanding immunological mechanisms against infectious organisms and during stress conditions. In the present study, the role of protein tyrosine phosphorylation is assessed in the activation of nonspecific cytotoxic cells (NCC) from tilapia Oreochromis niloticus by cytokine-like serum factors. NCC are the teleost equivalent of mammalian natural killer (NK) cells. In teleost fish, NCC are important mediators of innate immunity against bacterial and parasite insult and tumor growth. We have previously shown that exposure of tilapia (a tropical fish) to cold water temperatures (3 to 5 min at 5 to 10°C) produces physiological stress responses characterized by immediate phenotypic and immunological changes. The serum obtained from stressed tilapia contains a Œstress activating serum factor¹ (SASF) which passively increases in vitro naïve NCC cytotoxicity 2- to 4-fold over control levels. In an effort to identify the mechanisms of activation of cytotoxicity by SASF, the phosphorylation status of tyrosine residues in proteins from treated NCC was determined. NCC were incubated with heat-inactivated or untreated stress serum and Western blots of the cell lysates were probed with anti-phosphotyrosine monoclonal antibodies (mabs). The levels of tyrosine phosphorylation in several proteins of the SASF activated NCC were higher than in control cells. Increased tyrosine phosphorylation was also induced by incubation of NCC in the presence of the tyrosine phosphatase inhibitor Na orthovanadate (vanadate). In every case, an increase in phosphorylation status shown by Western blotting was correlated with increases in cytotoxic activity of NCC against HL-60 target cells. The enzyme inhibitor Herbimycin A (HA) has been previously used to inhibit the activity of the src-family of tyrosine kinases. In the present study, a 4 h pretreatment of NCC with HA (2 µM), followed by treatment with SASF blocked the activation of cytotoxicity produced by SASF. These results suggested that activation of NCC by cytokine-like factors is mediated through activation of the src family of protein tyrosine kinases. Activation was associated with increased phosphorylation and higher cytotoxic effector functions.

KEY WORDS: NCC · Tilapia · Cytokines · Phosphorylation

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