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J Immunol. 2010 Jun 15;184(12):6719-30. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.0904089. Epub 2010 May 14.

Distinct roles for IL-2 and IL-15 in the differentiation and survival of CD8+ effector and memory T cells.

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Department of Pathology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT 84112, USA.


IL-2 provides a memory differentiation signal to CD8+ T cells during the primary response that impacts the ability of the subsequent memory pool to mount a successful recall response. In this study, we find that although primary effector CTL development is modestly decreased in the absence of IL-2, the persistence of short-term and long-term effector memory CD8+ T cells on pathogen clearance is greatly diminished. Furthermore, secondary challenge of CD8+ memory T cells lacking the high-avidity IL-2R results in a failure to repopulate the effector pool. The role of IL-2 in promoting effector differentiation is not shared with the highly related cytokine, IL-15. Although IL-15 supports the survival of effector CD8+ T cells after pathogen clearance, its absence does not impair either primary or secondary effector CTL differentiation, nor does it impact the differentiation of long-term effector memory CD8+ T cells. These findings indicate a unique role for IL-2, but not IL-15, in promoting the differentiation not only of primary effector CD8+ T cells, but also of CD8+ memory T cells capable of secondary effector differentiation.

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