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J Exp Med. 2002 Jun 17;195(12):1541-8.

Interleukin 15 is required for proliferative renewal of virus-specific memory CD8 T cells.

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Emory Vaccine Center and Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA.


The generation and efficient maintenance of antigen-specific memory T cells is essential for long-lasting immunological protection. In this study, we examined the role of interleukin (IL)-15 in the generation and maintenance of virus-specific memory CD8 T cells using mice deficient in either IL-15 or the IL-15 receptor alpha chain. Both cytokine- and receptor-deficient mice made potent primary CD8 T cell responses to infection with lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV), effectively cleared the virus and generated a pool of antigen-specific memory CD8 T cells that were phenotypically and functionally similar to memory CD8 T cells present in IL-15(+/+) mice. However, longitudinal analysis revealed a slow attrition of virus-specific memory CD8 T cells in the absence of IL-15 signals. This loss of CD8 T cells was due to a severe defect in the proliferative renewal of antigen-specific memory CD8 T cells in IL-15(-/-) mice. Taken together, these results show that IL-15 is not essential for the generation of memory CD8 T cells, but is required for homeostatic proliferation to maintain populations of memory cells over long periods of time.

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