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Gastroenterology. 2010 Jul;139(1):182-93.e7. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2010.03.057. Epub 2010 Apr 8.

Interleukin-15 expression is increased in human eosinophilic esophagitis and mediates pathogenesis in mice.

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Division of Allergy and Immunology, Department of Pediatrics, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Cincinnati, Ohio 45229, USA.



Quantitative microarray analyses have shown increased expression of interleukin-15 (IL-15) messenger RNA in the esophagus of patients with eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), a recently recognized allergic disorder with poorly understood pathogenesis.


Quantitative polymerase chain reaction and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay analyses were performed to examine protein and transcript levels in tissue samples from patients with EoE. Tissues from IL-15Ra-deficient and wild-type (control) mice were also examined. Tissue eosinophilia was determined by immunostaining for major basic protein and flow cytometry for cell-surface receptors.


Quantitative polymerase chain reaction analyses showed that levels of IL-15 and its receptor IL-15Ra were increased approximately 6- and approximately 10-fold, respectively, in tissues from patients with EoE and approximately 3- and approximately 4-fold, respectively, in mice with allergen-induced EoE. A >2-fold increase in serum IL-15 protein levels was also detected in human EoE samples compared with those from healthy individuals. Human IL-15 messenger RNA levels correlated with esophageal eosinophilia (P < .001). IL-15Ra-deficient mice were protected from allergen-induced esophageal eosinophilia compared with controls (P < .001), even though similar levels of airway eosinophilia were observed in all mice. IL-15 activated STAT5 and CD4(+) T cells to produce cytokines that act on eosinophils. Incubation of primary esophageal epithelial cells from mice and humans with IL-15 caused a dose-dependent increase in the mRNA expression and protein levels of eotaxin-1, -2, and -3.


IL-15 mediates in the pathogenesis of EoE. IL-15 activates CD4(+) T cells to produce cytokines that act on eosinophils.

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