IL-15 is a pleiotropic and multifunctional cytokine that has a diverse array of distinct biological effects in the body. It plays a crucial role in host defense from viral and non-viral intracellular pathogens. The cytokine is essential for the development and differentiation of NK cells and for homeostatic expansion of CD8+ memory T cells, NKT cells and certain subsets of intestinal intra-epithelial lymphocytes (iIEL). It acts as a survival factor and inhibits spontaneous apoptosis in T, B and NK cells by increasing expression of different anti-apoptotic proteins. Several studies have shown that IL-15 production is compromised in HIV-infected AIDS patients and exogenous IL-15 drastically enhances functions of immune cells from these patients. Considering these distinct immune enhancing effects, relative safety in animal models, and minimal effects on HIV replication, IL-15 may represent a better cytokine for immune reconstitution in these patients. Furthermore, IL-15 may also act as a better adjuvant in eliciting antiviral immunity in anti-HIV vaccine strategies.
- Anti-HIV vaccine
- NK cells