IL-15 is a growth factor and an activator of CD8 memory T cells

Nan Ping Weng, Kebin Liu, Marta Catalfamo, Yu Li, Pierre A. Henkart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


Memory lymphocytes, arising from naïve lymphocytes after antigenic stimulation and being long-lived, are the cellular basis for immunological memory. Recent studies of CD8 T cells suggest that generation of CD8 memory T cells requires the engagement of T cell antigen receptors (TCR) with antigen, yet the maintenance of CD8 memory T cells appears to be dependent on cytokines, such as IL-15, independent of TCR. Although considerable progress has been made in understanding the molecular and cellular events of TCR-induced differentiation and proliferation in the past decade, less is known about the mechanisms of IL-15 action. From a kinetic and comparative analysis of the responses of memory phenotype CD8 T cells to IL-15 and TCR stimulation in vitro, we found that IL-15 and anti-CD3 induce highly similar responses in memory phenotype CD8 T cells as measured by general gene expression profiles, synthesis of effector molecules (IFNγ, TNFβ, granzyme B and perforin), induction of cytotoxicity, and cellular proliferation. These findings indicate that IL-15 is not only a growth factor but also an antigen-independent activator for CD8 memory T cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)46-56
Number of pages11
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
StatePublished - Jan 1 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Cytotoxicity
  • IL-15
  • Memory CD8 T cells
  • TCR, microarray

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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