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Interleukin 15: its role in intestinal inflammation
  1. D A van Heel
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr David van Heel
    Gastroenterology Section, Imperial College London (Hammersmith Campus), Du Cane Road, London W12 0NN, UK; d.vanheel{at}

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Interleukin 15 may have a central role in diverse intestinal inflammatory diseases, such as coeliac disease and inflammatory bowel disease, and hence manipulation of the IL-15 pathway may have therapeutic possibilities in these conditions

The cytokine interleukin 15 (IL-15, a protein of 114 amino acids) was first discovered due to IL-2-like stimulatory actions on T cells.1,2 The heterotrimeric IL-15 receptor comprises the β and γ chains of the IL-2 receptor, with a unique α subunit. These shared receptor subunits most likely explain the similar T cell growth factor properties of both IL-2 and IL-15. Several cell types can produce IL-15, including macrophages, dendritic cells, and intestinal epithelial cells. The discovery that enterocytes can both produce and respond to IL-15,3 and that IL-15 potently stimulates intraepithelial lymphocytes,4 has focused attention on its role in intestinal inflammation. IL-15 also has a number of other activities, including recruitment and activation of T cells, maintenance of T cell memory, stimulation of proliferation and immunoglobulin synthesis by B cells, natural killer (NK) cell proliferation, activation of neutrophils, and inhibition of apoptosis. Mice with a genetically disrupted IL-15 gene (“knockout”) remain healthy under specific pathogen free conditions.5 However, they display marked reductions in numbers of thymic and peripheral NK T cells, memory …

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  • Conflict of interest: None declared.

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