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J Immunol. 2001 Aug 1;167(3):1179-87.

IL-15 is expressed by dendritic cells in response to type I IFN, double-stranded RNA, or lipopolysaccharide and promotes dendritic cell activation.

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Laboratory of Virology, Istituto Superiore di Sanitá, Rome, Italy.


Cytokines that are induced by infection may contribute to the initiation of immune responses through their ability to stimulate dendritic cells (DCs). In this paper, we have addressed the role of IL-15 in DC activation, investigating its expression by DCs in response to three different signals of infection and examining its ability to stimulate DCs. We report that the expression of both IL-15 and the IL-15 receptor alpha-chain are increased in splenic DCs from mice inoculated with dsRNA (poly(I:C)), LPS, or IFN-alphabeta, and in purified murine splenic DCs treated with IFN-alphabeta in vitro. Furthermore, IL-15 itself was able to activate DCs, as in vivo or in vitro exposure of splenic DCs to IL-15 resulted in an up-regulation of costimulatory molecules, markedly increased production of IFN-gamma by DC and an enhanced ability of DCs to stimulate Ag-specific CD8(+) T cell proliferation. The magnitude of all of the IL-15-induced changes in DCs was reduced in mice deficient for the IFN-alphabeta receptor, suggesting a role for IFN-alphabeta in the stimulation of DCs by IL-15. These results identify IL-15 as a stimulatory cytokine for DCs with the potential for autocrine activity and link its effects to expression of IFN-alphabeta.

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