Interleukin 15 is essential for the development and differentiation of NK and memory CD8(mCD8) T cells. Our laboratory previously showed that NK and CD8T lymphocytes facilitate the pathobiology of septic shock. However, factors that regulate NK and CD8T lymphocyte functions during sepsis are not well characterized. We hypothesized that IL-15 promotes the pathogenesis of sepsis by maintaining NK and mCD8T cell integrity. To test our hypothesis, the pathogenesis of sepsis was assessed in IL-15-deficient (IL-15 knockout, KO) mice. IL-15 KO mice showed improved survival, attenuated hypothermia, and less proinflammatory cytokine production during septic shock caused by cecal ligation and puncture or endotoxin-induced shock. Treatment with IL-15 superagonist (IL-15 SA, IL-15/IL-15Rα complex) regenerated NK and mCD8T cells and re-established mortality of IL-15 KO mice during septic shock. Preventing NK cell regeneration attenuated the restoration of mortality caused by IL-15 SA. If given immediately prior to septic challenge, IL-15-neutralizing IgG M96 failed to protect against septic shock. However, M96 caused NK cell depletion if given 4 d prior to septic challenge and conferred protection. IL-15 SA treatment amplified endotoxin shock, which was prevented by NK cell or IFN-γ depletion. IL-15 SA treatment also exacerbated septic shock caused by cecal ligation and puncture when given after the onset of sepsis. In conclusion, endogenous IL-15 does not directly augment the pathogenesis of sepsis but enables the development of septic shock by maintaining NK cell numbers and integrity. Exogenous IL-15 exacerbates the severity of sepsis by activating NK cells and facilitating IFN-γ production.
Copyright © 2017 by The American Association of Immunologists, Inc.