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Immunity. 1998 May;8(5):591-9.

Potent and selective stimulation of memory-phenotype CD8+ T cells in vivo by IL-15.

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Department of Immunology, IMM4, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California 92037, USA.


Proliferation of memory-phenotype (CD44hi) CD8+ cells induced by infectious agents can be mimicked by injection of type I interferon (IFN I) and by IFN I-inducing agents such as lipopolysaccharide and Poly I:C; such proliferation does not affect naive T cells and appears to be TCR independent. Since IFN I inhibits proliferation in vitro, IFN I-induced proliferation of CD8+ cells in vivo presumably occurs indirectly through production of secondary cytokines, e.g., interleukin-2 (IL-2) or IL-15. We show here that, unlike IL-2, IL-15 closely mimics the effects of IFN I in causing strong and selective stimulation of memory-phenotype CD44hi CD8+ (but not CD4+) cells in vivo; similar specificity applies to purified T cells in vitro and correlates with much higher expression of IL-2Rbeta on CD8+ cells than on CD4+ cells.

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