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Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2005 Nov;289(5):G842-51. Epub 2005 Jul 7.

Inhibition of lymphocyte apoptosis by pancreatic stellate cells: impact of interleukin-15.

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  • 1Division of Gastroenterology, Department of Medicine, University of Rostock, D-18057 Rostock, Germany. gisela.sparmann@med.uni-rostock.de


There is growing evidence that pancreatic stellate cells (PSCs) produce cytokines and take part in the regulation of inflammatory processes in the pancreas. IL-15 inhibits apoptosis of various cell populations. This study was performed to investigate whether PSCs produce IL-15 and thereby can affect lymphocytes. Primary PSCs were isolated from the rat pancreas using density gradient centrifugation. mRNA expression of IL-15 was demonstrated by RT-PCR, and IL-15 protein was analyzed by immunoblotting. Lymphocytes obtained from rat mesenterial lymph nodes were cocultured with in vitro activated PSCs. Apoptosis has been quantified by the binding of annexin V-FITC with a flow cytometer. Proliferation was monitored using [3H]thymidine incorporation. PSCs express two splice variants of IL-15. The protein was detectable only in cell lysates but not in the cell culture supernatant. Cocultivation of lymphocytes with PSCs and IL-15 inhibited spontaneous lymphocyte apoptosis, and this effect was reduced by an anti-IL-15 antibody. Lymphocytes induced vice versa the proliferation and collagen production of PSCs. The inhibition of spontaneous lymphocyte apoptosis in cocultures with PSCs was at least partially mediated by cell-bound IL-15. This effect and the stimulation of PSCs by lymphocytes may lead to a circulus vitiosus, resulting in the persistence of inflammatory processes and the development of fibrosis during chronic pancreatitis.

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