IL-15 is a T cell growth factor that shares many functional similarities with IL-2 and has recently been shown to be present in\ud tissue and organ allografts, leading to speculation that IL-15 may contribute to graft rejection. Here, we report on the in vivo use\ud of an IL-15 antagonist, a soluble fragment of the murine IL-15R a-chain, to investigate the contribution of IL-15 to the rejection\ud of fully vascularized cardiac allografts in a mouse experimental model. Administration of soluble fragment of the murine IL-15R\ud a-chain (sIL-15Ra) to CBA/Ca (H-2k) recipients for 10 days completely prevented rejection of minor histocompatibility complexmismatched\ud B10.BR (H-2k) heart grafts (median survival time (MST) of >100 days vs MST of 10 days for control recipients) and\ud led to a state of donor-specific immunologic tolerance. Treatment of CBA/Ca recipients with sIL-15Ra alone had only a modest\ud effect on the survival of fully MHC-mismatched BALB/c (H-2d) heart grafts. However, administration of sIL-15Ra together with\ud a single dose of a nondepleting anti-CD4 mAb (YTS 177.9) delayed mononuclear cell infiltration of the grafts and markedly\ud prolonged graft survival (MST of 60 days vs MST of 20 days for treatment with anti-CD4 alone). Prolonged graft survival was\ud accompanied in vitro by reduced proliferation and IFN-g production by spleen cells, whereas CTL and alloantibody levels were\ud similar to those in animals given anti-CD4 mAb alone. These findings demonstrate that IL-15 plays an important role in the rejection\ud of a vascularized organ allograft and that antagonists to IL-15 may be of therapeutic value in preventing allograft rejection
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