Blood Journal
Leading the way in experimental and clinical research in hematology

Interleukin-15 promotes the growth of leukemic cells of patients with B- cell chronic lymphoproliferative disorders

  1. L Trentin,
  2. A Cerutti,
  3. R Zambello,
  4. R Sancretta,
  5. C Tassinari,
  6. M Facco,
  7. F Adami,
  8. F Rodeghiero,
  9. C Agostini, and
  10. G Semenzato
  1. Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Padua University School of Medicine, Padova, Italy.


The recently discovered cytokine, interleukin-15 (IL-15), has been demonstrated to share several biologic properties with IL-2 in different cell systems, including T-cell and natural killer (NK) cell compartments. As for B lymphocytes, IL-15 has been shown to provide stimulatory activities in normal preactivated B cells that are mainly transduced through IL- 2 receptor (IL-2R) complex components. Since leukemic B cells from patients with chronic lymphoproliferative disorders (CLD) bear IL-2R and grow in response to IL-2, we investigated whether IL-15 triggers the proliferation of malignant B cells obtained from 12 patients with B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia (B-CLL) and five patients with hairy cell leukemia (HCL). Enriched B cells recovered from five healthy subjects were also studied as controls. IL-15 stimulated the proliferation of freshly isolated leukemic B cells, but not resting normal B lymphocytes, the latter being able to grow in the presence of IL-15 only after in vitro preactivation with phorbol myristate acetate. The proliferation elicited by IL-2 on leukemic cells was comparable to that determined by IL-15. Following addition of graded concentrations of IL-15 to low/intermediate-dose IL-2, resting leukemic B cells showed a higher stimulatory rate than that observed using the two cytokines separately. In normal resting B lymphocytes, this cumulative effect was not observed. The role of different IL-2R subunits in IL-15-driven growth of malignant B cells was investigated both by their expression on leukemic cells and by the block of different IL-2R subunits (p55, p75, and p64) with specific monoclonal antibodies (MoAbs). Using flow cytometry and reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) analyses we demonstrated that both B-CLL and HCL leukemic B cells express the beta and gamma chains of the IL-2R system. The stimulatory activity achieved by IL-15 decreased significantly, blocking the beta and gamma chains of the IL-2R. Taken together, these findings demonstrate that IL-15 triggers the growth of leukemic B cells through IL-2R system subunits, pointing to the role of this novel cytokine in regulating the neoplastic proliferation in CLD.