Interleukin (IL)-15 is a novel cytokine with growth factor activity for T cells, B cells, and natural killer cells (NK cells). We investigated the role of IL-15 in the host defense against infection with avirulent Salmonella choleraesuis strain 31N-1 cured of 50-kb virulent plasmid. IL-15 was abundantly expressed at transcription and protein levels in macrophages infected with S. choleraesuis 31N-1. The number of NK cells in the infected sites was increased during the course of infection coincident with IL-15 production. Anti-IL-15 mAb administration inhibited the emergence of NK cells and interferon-γ (IFN-γ) production in serum after infection with S. choleraesuis 31N-1 and concurrently impaired the clearance of the bacteria. These results suggested that IL-15 might be responsible for protection against avirulent S. choleraesuis infection at early stage of infection through activation of NK cells in the infected sites.
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