Interleukin-15 expression affects homeostasis and function of B cells through NK cell-derived interferon-γ
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Interleukin-15 (IL-15) is a cytokine important for the development, maturation, and function of many cells of the immune system including NK, NKT, gammadeltaT, and CD8(+) T cells. The relationship between IL-15 and B lymphocytes however, is not well characterized and is the focus of our study. Previous in vitro reports have shown that IL-15 increases proliferation of B lymphocytes and increases antibody secretion however, this relationship remains inadequately defined in vivo. The focus of this study was to examine the role of IL-15 in B cell homeostasis and function in vivo using mice that either over express IL-15 (IL-15tg mice) or are deficient in IL-15 (IL-15(-/-) mice) production. Here we report significant differences between the B cell populations of IL-15(-/-), C57BL/6, and IL-15tg mice. In fact, increased expression of IL-15 resulted in a significant decrease in the percentage and absolute number of CD19(+) cells. In vitro B cell co-cultures implicate interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) as the factor responsible for inhibiting B cell proliferation. We also show that IL-15 expression affects B cell function, as B cells from IL-15 transgenic mice produce greater amounts of IgG and IgA than IL-15 knockout mice in vitro. Interestingly, despite significant differences in B cell numbers in these strains, there were no significant differences in total antibody titers in serum and vaginal washes of these mice. Results from our in vivo and in vitro experiments suggest that altered expression of IL-15 affects B cell homeostasis through the induction of NK cell-derived IFN-gamma.
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