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Blood. 2010 Oct 28;116(17):3238-48. doi: 10.1182/blood-2010-03-275438. Epub 2010 Jul 14.

Transient and persistent effects of IL-15 on lymphocyte homeostasis in nonhuman primates.

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  • 1Immunotechnology Section, Vaccine Research Center, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health (NIH), Bethesda, MD, USA.


Interleukin-15 (IL-15) is a cytokine with potential therapeutic application in individuals with cancer or immunodeficiency to promote natural killer (NK)- and T-cell activation and proliferation or in vaccination protocols to generate long-lived memory T cells. Here we report that 10-50 μg/kg IL-15 administered intravenously daily for 12 days to rhesus macaques has both short- and long-lasting effects on T-cell homeostasis. Peripheral blood lymphopenia preceded a dramatic expansion of NK cells and memory CD8 T cells in the circulation, particularly a 4-fold expansion of central memory CD8 T cells and a 6-fold expansion of effector memory CD8 T cells. This expansion is a consequence of their activation in multiple tissues. A concomitant inverted CD4/CD8 T-cell ratio was observed throughout the body at day 13, a result of preferential CD8 expansion. Expanded T- and NK-cell populations declined in the blood soon after IL-15 was stopped, suggesting migration to extralymphoid sites. By day 48, homeostasis appears restored throughout the body, with the exception of the maintenance of an inverted CD4/CD8 ratio in lymph nodes. Thus, IL-15 generates a dramatic expansion of short-lived memory CD8 T cells and NK cells in immunocompetent macaques and has long-term effects on the balance of CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells.

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