Requirement for extracellular calcium or magnesium in mitogen‐induced activation of human peripheral blood lymphocytes

Jaime F. Modiano, Ellie Kelepouris, Jeffrey A. Kern, Peter C. Nowell

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27 Scopus citations


The importance of calcium in lymphocyte activation is well recognized, but the levels of extracellular ionized free calcium (Ca++) necessary for lymphocyte proliferation via various pathways have not been investigated in detail. We studied the ability of a lectin mitogen (PHA) and a calcium ionophore (ionomycin) to induce interleukin 2 receptors, interleukin 2 (IL2) production, and proliferation over various concentrations of extracellular Ca++. Reducing the Ca++ levels from the normal 200 μM to 10 μM in PHA‐stimulated cultures partially inhibited IL2 receptor expression, IL2 production, and subsequent proliferation. At 1 μM Ca++, both IL2 activity and proliferation were eliminated, but partial IL2 receptor expression was still observed. Ionomycin did not induce any of these events in cultures where the extracellular Ca++ concentration was below 100 μM. Restoring calcium in the medium resulted in normal levels of IL2 receptor expression, IL2 activity, and proliferation when PBL were stimulated with either mitogen. Exogenous magnesium partially restored these events in PHA‐stimulated cultures, but had no effect when ionomycin was used as the mitogen. These data indicate that stimulation by ionomycin is much more dependent upon the levels of extracellular Ca++ than is PHA. Extracellular calcium also appears to be necessary subsequent to IL2 receptor acquisition, since the latter was seen without IL2 activity or proliferation at very low extracellular Ca++, and IL2 failed to restore the proliferative response under these conditions. The data also suggest that PHA, but not ionomycin, can activate lymphocytes via a magnesium dependent pathway, or that PHA has a lower specificity for divalent cation cofactors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)451-458
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of cellular physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1988


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