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Cytokine. 2006 Nov;36(3-4):148-59. Epub 2006 Dec 22.

Induction of granzyme B and T cell cytotoxic capacity by IL-2 or IL-15 without antigens: multiclonal responses that are extremely lytic if triggered and short-lived after cytokine withdrawal.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology/320, University of Nevada, Reno, 1664 N. Virginia St. Reno, NV 89557, USA.


The purpose of these studies was to determine the minimal requirements to induce granzyme B, cytotoxic granules and perforin-dependent lytic capacity. To our surprise, both IL-2 and IL-15 induced not only proliferation, but also profound granzyme B and lytic capacity from CD8+ T cells in the absence of antigen or TCR-stimulation. Mouse splenocytes were incubated with mouse r-IL-2 or r-IL-15 for three days, tested by anti-CD3 redirected lysis and examined for intracellular granzyme B and for T cell activation markers. With 10(-8) M IL-2 or IL-15, there was excellent lytic activity at 1:1 effector to target ratios mediated by T cells from wild-type but not from perforin-gene-ablated mice, consistent with multiclonal activation. Lower interleukin concentrations induced less lytic activity. Granzyme B was undetectable on day 0, and greatly elevated on day 3 in CD44hi CD8+ T cells as detected by flow cytometry. Cytokines alone elevated the granzyme B as much as concanavalin A combined with the cytokines. Some ex vivo CD8+ T cells were CD122+, as were the cultured granzyme B+ cells, thus both populations had low-affinity receptors for the interleukins. Only some of the activated cells were proliferating as detected by CFSE labeling. When the cytokines were withdrawn, the cells lost lytic activity within 24 h and then within the next 24 h, died. Our results suggest that high concentrations of either IL-2 or IL-15 will activate the lytic capacity and granzyme B expression of many T cells and that antigen recognition is not required.

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