Send to

Choose Destination
J Clin Invest. 1997 Mar 1;99(5):937-43.

A potential role for interleukin-15 in the regulation of human natural killer cell survival.

Author information

Division of Surgery, Roswell Park Cancer Center, Buffalo, New York 14263, USA.


Resting lymphocyte survival is dependent upon the expression of Bcl-2, yet the factors responsible for maintaining lymphocyte Bcl-2 protein expression in vivo are largely unknown. Natural killer (NK) cells are bone marrow-derived lymphocytes that constitutively express the beta and common gamma(c) subunits of the IL-2 receptor (R) as a heterodimer with intermediate affinity for IL-2. IL-15 also binds to IL-2Rbeta gamma(c) and is much more abundant in normal tissues than IL-2. Mice that lack the IL-2 gene have NK cells, whereas mice and humans that lack IL-2R gamma(c) do not have NK cells. Further, treatment of mice with an antibody directed against IL-2Rbeta results in a loss of the NK cell compartment. These data suggest that a cytokine other than IL-2, which binds to IL-2Rbeta gamma(c), is important for NK cell development and survival in vivo. In the current report, we show that the recently described IL-15R(alpha) subunit cooperates with IL-2Rbeta gamma(c) to transduce an intracellular signal at picomolar concentrations of IL-15. We demonstrate that resting human NK cells express IL-15R(alpha) mRNA and further, that picomolar amounts of IL-15 can sustain NK cell survival for up to 8 d in the absence of serum. NK cell survival was not sustained by other monocyte-derived factors (i.e., TNF-alpha, IL-1beta, IL-10, IL-12) nor by cytokines known to use gamma(c) for signaling (i.e., IL-4, IL-7, IL-9, IL- 13). One mechanism by which IL-15 promotes NK cell survival may involve the maintenance of Bcl-2 protein expression. Considering these functional properties of IL-15 and the fact that it is produced by bone marrow stromal cells and activated monocytes, we propose that IL-15 may function as an NK cell survival factor in vivo.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for American Society for Clinical Investigation Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center