Interleukin-2, interleukin-15, and their roles in human natural killer cells

Adv Immunol. 2005;86:209-39. doi: 10.1016/S0065-2776(04)86006-1.


Natural killer (NK) cells are CD56+CD3- large granular lymphocytes that constitute a key component of the human innate immune response. In addition to their potent cytolytic activity, NK cells elaborate a host of immunoregulatory cytokines and chemokines that play a crucial role in pathogen clearance. Furthermore, interactions between NK and other immune cells are implicated in triggering the adaptive, or antigen-specific, immune response. Interleukin-2 (IL-2) and IL-15 are two distinct cytokines with partially overlapping properties that are implicated in the development, homeostasis, and function of NK cells. This review examines the pervasive effects of IL-2 and IL-15 on NK cell biology, with an emphasis on recent discoveries and lingering challenges in the field.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cell Differentiation*
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-15 / metabolism*
  • Interleukin-2 / metabolism*
  • Killer Cells, Natural / cytology*
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*


  • Interleukin-15
  • Interleukin-2