PloS one

Interleukin-15 Dendritic Cells Harness NK Cell Cytotoxic Effector Function in a Contact- and IL-15-Dependent Manner.

PMID 25951230


The contribution of natural killer (NK) cells to the treatment efficacy of dendritic cell (DC)-based cancer vaccines is being increasingly recognized. Much current efforts to optimize this form of immunotherapy are therefore geared towards harnessing the NK cell-stimulatory ability of DCs. In this study, we investigated whether generation of human monocyte-derived DCs with interleukin (IL)-15 followed by activation with a Toll-like receptor stimulus endows these DCs, commonly referred to as "IL-15 DCs", with the capacity to stimulate NK cells. In a head-to-head comparison with "IL-4 DCs" used routinely for clinical studies, IL-15 DCs were found to induce a more activated, cytotoxic effector phenotype in NK cells, in particular in the CD56bright NK cell subset. With the exception of GM-CSF, no significant enhancement of cytokine/chemokine secretion was observed following co-culture of NK cells with IL-15 DCs. IL-15 DCs, but not IL-4 DCs, promoted NK cell tumoricidal activity towards both NK-sensitive and NK-resistant targets. This effect was found to require cell-to-cell contact and to be mediated by DC surface-bound IL-15. This study shows that DCs can express a membrane-bound form of IL-15 through which they enhance NK cell cytotoxic function. The observed lack of membrane-bound IL-15 on "gold-standard" IL-4 DCs and their consequent inability to effectively promote NK cell cytotoxicity may have important implications for the future design of DC-based cancer vaccine studies.