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J Infect Dis. 2005 Oct 1;192(7):1294-302. Epub 2005 Aug 23.

Interleukin-15 activates human natural killer cells to clear the intestinal protozoan cryptosporidium.

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Department of Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


Intracellular protozoans of the genus Cryptosporidium are a major cause of diarrheal illness worldwide, but little is known about the mechanisms that control intestinal infection. We have previously demonstrated interleukin (IL)-15 expression in the intestinal mucosa of seronegative symptomatic volunteers after oral challenge with C. parvum, which suggests a role for IL-15 in the control of acute infection. We hypothesize that IL-15 activates an innate cytolytic cell response that contributes to the clearance of initial C. parvum infection. We report here that IL-15 activates peripheral blood mononuclear cells to lyse Cryptosporidium-infected epithelial cells in a dose-dependent manner. Lysis was due to CD3(-)CD16(+)CD56+ cells (i.e., natural killer [NK] cells). Furthermore, flow cytometry revealed that IL-15 increased expression of the activation receptor NKG2D on NK cells, particularly among the CD16Hi cytolytically active cells. Major histocompatibility complex class I-related molecules A and B (MICA and MICB), ligands for NKG2D, were increased after infection of epithelial cell lines and human ileal tissue. These data suggest that IL-15 has an important role in activating an NK cell-mediated pathway that leads to the elimination of intracellular protozoans from the intestines, which is a previously unrecognized feature of NK cell function.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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