Dendritic cells (DC) are professional antigen-presenting cells which stimulate strong proliferative and cytolytic T cell responses. Stimulation of CD40 on dendritic cells by its ligands and anti-CD40 antibodies induces maturation and enhances DC stimulatory ability. In order to understand the mechanism by which ligand:CD40 interactions augment DC function, we assessed the role of T cell stimulatory cytokines IL-12 and IL-15 in the function of DC stimulated with soluble trimeric CD40L, a recombinant fusion protein incorporating three covalently linked extracellular CD40L domains (huCD40LT). Peripheral blood derived DC treated with huCD40LT and/or IFN-gamma were used to stimulate T cell responses in vitro to specific antigens. DC treated with huCD40LT or IFN-gamma/huCD40LT stimulated enhanced T cell proliferation to CASTA, a soluble protein from C. albicans, induced T cells with augmented antigen-specific lysis, and increased the yield of antigen-specific IFN-gamma-producing T cells. IL-15 production by DC was enhanced in cultures treated with huCD40LT and correlated with expansion of antigen-specific cytolytic T cells. Addition of a neutralizing anti-IL-15 monoclonal antibody inhibited the expansion of viral and tumor antigen-specific T cells stimulated by IFN-gamma and huCD40LT-treated DC. In contrast, this enhanced stimulatory ability of DC did not appear to depend on synthesis of IL-12 since huCD40LT treatment stimulated the generation of antigen-specific cytokine producing and cytolytic T cells without increased IL-12 production. Addition of anti-IL-12 monoclonal antibody did not inhibit expansion of these cells. These data suggest that production of IL-15 but not IL-12 is an important factor in the enhanced immunostimulatory ability of huCD40LT-treated DC.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.