Clinical and Experimental Immunology vol:130 issue:3 pages:379-385
TCR/CD3 aggregation by injection of anti-CD3 Ab produces T cell activation, release of cytokines such as IFN-gamma, and apoptosis in the cortical region of the thymus. We show that anti-CD3 Ab induces IL-15 mRNA in spleens of wild-type but not IFN-gamma receptor-knock-out (IFN-gammaR KO) mice. The loss of IL-15 mRNA induction in IFN-gammaR KO mice was associated with increased thymocyte apoptosis. Pretreatment of wild-type mice with neutralizing anti-IL-15 Ab increased the anti-CD3-triggered thymocyte apoptosis, thus mimicking the sensitive phenotype of IFN-gammaR KO mice. Inversely, anti-CD3-induced apoptosis in IFN-gammaR KO mice was suppressed by administration of recombinant IL-15. In IFN-gammaR KO mice and in wild-type mice that were treated with anti-IL-15, augmented apoptosis affected mainly CD4+CD8+ immature thymocytes. IL-15 as well as IL-15Ralpha mRNA expression in thymocytes was not increased by anti-CD3. These data demonstrate that systemic IL-15 exerts anti-apoptotic activity on immature T cells and establish a regulatory mechanism whereby TCR/CD3 engagement induces IL-15 expression via an IFN-gamma-dependent pathway. The self-amplifying nature of this IFN-gamma/IL-15 connection may constitute a regulatory pathway in central tolerance to self.