Human natural killer (NK) cells constitutively express the beta- and gamma-chains of the interleukin 2 (IL-2)/IL-15 receptor, and both IL-2 and IL-15 are able to activate NK cell proliferation and cytotoxicity. When IL-2-primed human NK cells are exposed to sensitive targets (i.e. K562) they undergo apoptosis mediated by the beta(2)-integrin CD18. Here, we demonstrate that: (i) endothelial cells, similar to K562 tumour target cells, induce apoptosis of IL-2-primed NK cells; (ii) endothelial- and K562 cell-induced apoptosis is significantly lower in IL-15 than in IL-2-stimulated NK cells; (iii) a critical role in the apoptosis of IL-2-primed NK cells is played by the alpha-chain of the IL-2 receptor. Our data show for the first time that IL-2-activated NK cells can die by apoptosis upon contact with the vascular endothelium, which is a necessary step for their extravasation, with a direct pathophysiological relevance on the strategy of adoptive immunotherapy of cancer. On the other hand, IL-15, although generating a similar level of activation of NK cells, largely prevents their apoptotic fate. Therefore, IL-15 produced early in the immune response, when T cells are not yet activated, generates lymphokine-activated killer cells that are efficient killers relatively protected from apoptosis. Once activated, T cells produce IL-2 that overcomes the effect of IL-15 on NK cells, paving the way for their death by apoptosis.
Interleukin 2 and interleukin 15 differentially predispose natural killer cellsto apoptosis mediated by endothelial and tumour cells / RODELLA L.; ZAMAI L.; REZZANI R.; ARTICO M.; PERI G.; FALCONI M.; FACCHINI A.; PELUSI G.; VITALE M.. - In: BRITISH JOURNAL OF HAEMATOLOGY. - ISSN 0007-1048. - 115(2)(2001), pp. 442-450. [10.1046/j.1365-2141.2001.03055.x]