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The surface phenotype CD3-NK1.1+DX5+CD11c(int)B220+GR1- has been recently ascribed to a novel subset of mouse leukocytes termed interferon (IFN)-producing killer dendritic cells (IKDCs) that shares functions with natural killer (NK) cells and DCs. Interleukin-15 (IL-15) is critical for NK cells but its relationship with IKDC remained unexplored. An expression cassette encoding human IL-15 (hIL-15) has been transferred by hydrodynamic injection into the liver of mice, resulting in transient expression of the cytokine that is detectable during the first 48 h. hIL-15 hydrodynamic gene transfer resulted in an expansion of NK cells and IKDCs. Relative expansions of IKDCs were more dramatic in the IL-15 gene-transferred hepatic tissue than in the spleen. Adoptively transferred DX5+ cells comprising both NK cells and IKDCs proliferated in response to hydrodynamic injection of hIL-15, indicating that quantitative increases are at least in part the result of proliferation from already differentiated cells. Expansion is accompanied by enhanced cytolytic activity and increased expression of TRAIL and CD137 (4-1BB), without augmenting interferon-gamma production. The effects of a single hydrodynamic injection surpassed those of two intraperitoneal doses of the recombinant protein. The novel functional link between circulating IL-15 and IKDCs opens new possibilities to study the biology and applications of this minority cell subset.

Original publication




Journal article


Gene therapy

Publication Date





473 - 483


Gene Therapy Unit, Centro de Investigación Médica Aplicada (CIMA), Universidad de Navarra, Pamplona, Spain.


Liver, Spleen, Dendritic Cells, Killer Cells, Natural, Animals, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Mice, Knockout, Humans, Mice, Recombinant Proteins, Interleukin-15, Lymphocyte Count, Adoptive Transfer, Flow Cytometry, Injections, Intravenous, Transfection, Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction, Cytotoxicity, Immunologic, Genes, RAG-1, Genetic Therapy