IL-15 has been implicated as a key regulator of Tand NK cell homeostasis in multiple systems; however, its specific role in maintaining peripheral Tand NK cell populations relative to other γ-chain (γc) cytokines has not been fully defined in primates. In this article, we address this question by determining the effect of IL-15 inhibition with a rhesusized anti-IL-15 mAb on T and NK cell dynamics in rhesus macaques. Strikingly, anti-IL-15 treatment resulted in rapid depletion of NK cells and both CD4+ and CD8+ effector memory T cells (TEM) in blood and tissues, with little to no effect on naive or central memory T cells. Importantly, whereas depletion of NK cells was nearly complete and maintained as long as anti-IL-15 treatment was given, TEM depletion was countered by the onset of massive TEM proliferation, which almost completely restored circulating TEM numbers. Tissue TEM, however, remained significantly reduced, and most TEM maintained very high turnover throughout anti-IL-15 treatment. In the presence of IL-15 inhibition, TEM became increasingly more sensitive to IL-7 stimulation in vivo, and transcriptional analysis of TEM in IL-15-inhibited monkeys revealed engagement of the JAK/STAT signaling pathway, suggesting alternative γc cytokine signaling may support TEM homeostasis in the absence of IL-15. Thus, IL-15 plays a major role in peripheral maintenance of NK cells and TEM. However, whereas most NK cell populations collapse in the absence of IL-15, TEM can be maintained in the face of IL-15 inhibition by the activity of other homeostatic regulators, most likely IL-7.
ASJC Scopus subject areas