The misleading nature of in vitro and ex vivo findings in studying the impact of stress hormones on NK cell cytotoxicity

Neta Gotlieb, Ella Rosenne, Pini Matzner, Lee Shaashua, Liat Sorski, Shamgar Ben-Eliyahu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In vitro and ex vivo studies assessing the impact of stress hormones on immune competence commonly replace the natural milieu of leukocytes with an artificial medium, excluding plasma factors, hormones, and cytokines. Given prevalent inconsistencies between in vitro, ex vivo, and in vivo findings, we studied whether such procedures could yield misleading outcomes regarding the impact of stress hormones on NK cell cytotoxicity (NKCC), using fresh human whole blood samples. We found that in the presence of plasma 10-30-fold higher concentrations of cortisol, epinephrine, and prostaglandin-E2 (PGE2) were required to reach suppression levels evident in the context of artificial medium. Importantly, whereas the NK suppressive effects of PGE2 occurred immediately and remained stable upon prolonged exposure, the suppressive effects of cortisol slowly increased over time. Last, to simulate the exclusion of stress factors in the ex vivo approach, we subjected whole blood to stress hormones (as occurs in vivo), and abruptly removed them. We found that the effects of epinephrine and PGE2 quickly disappeared, while the effects of cortisol persisted. Overall, these findings demonstrate the potential misleading nature of in vitro and ex vivo procedures, and specifically suggest that (i) the common in vitro findings of profound suppression of NKCC by stress hormones are overestimation of their direct effects expected in vivo; and (ii) the common ex vivo approach cannot reflect the direct in vivo suppressive effects of epinephrine and PGE2 on NKCC, while inflating the effects of glucocorticoids. Some of these fallacies may be circumvented by using non-delayed whole blood NKCC assays in humans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)277-286
Number of pages10
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
Volume45
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2015

Keywords

  • Cortisol
  • Epinephrine
  • Ex vivo
  • Human
  • In vitro
  • In vivo
  • NK cytotoxicity
  • Prostaglandin
  • Stress
  • Whole blood

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'The misleading nature of in vitro and ex vivo findings in studying the impact of stress hormones on NK cell cytotoxicity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this