Regulation of T cell homeostasis by heparan sulfate-bound IL-2

J Immunol. 1999 Oct 1;163(7):3793-800.


Although IL-2 is commonly thought to promote proliferation of T lymphocytes, mice deficient in IL-2 exhibit splenomegaly, lymphocytosis, and autoimmunity, suggesting this cytokine may have a prominent role in T cell homeostasis. Since the number of T cells in the bloodstream and lymphoid organs is tightly controlled, it is likely that the availability of IL-2 must also be closely regulated. One mechanism altering the local availability of cytokines is association with heparan sulfate, a glycosaminoglycan found on cell surfaces and within extracellular matrices. Here we show that an association between IL-2 and heparan sulfate localizes IL-2 to lymphoid organs such as the spleen. We also show that IL-2, sequestered in this way, contributes to the activation of T lymphocytes and primes T lymphocytes for activation-induced cell death.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / immunology
  • Cell Division / immunology
  • Glycosaminoglycans / metabolism
  • Heparan Sulfate Proteoglycans / metabolism
  • Heparitin Sulfate / metabolism*
  • Homeostasis / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-2 / metabolism
  • Interleukin-2 / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Nude
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Organ Specificity / immunology
  • Protein Binding / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocytes / physiology*


  • Glycosaminoglycans
  • Heparan Sulfate Proteoglycans
  • Interleukin-2
  • Heparitin Sulfate