NFĸB is an unexpected major mediator of interleukin-15 signaling in cerebral endothelia

Cell Physiol Biochem. 2011;28(1):115-24. doi: 10.1159/000331720. Epub 2011 Aug 16.


Interleukin (IL)-15 and its receptors are induced by tumor necrosis factor α (TNF) in the cerebral endothelial cells composing the blood-brain barrier, but it is not yet clear how IL-15 modulates endothelial function. Contrary to the known induction of JAK/STAT3 signaling, here we found that nuclear factor (NF)- κB is mainly responsible for IL-15 actions on primary brain microvessel endothelial cells and cerebral endothelial cell lines. IL-15-induced transactivation of an NFκB luciferase reporter resulted in phosphorylation and degradation of the inhibitory subunit IκB that was followed by phosphorylation and nuclear translocation of the p65 subunit of NFκB. An IκB kinase inhibitor Bay 11-7082 only partially inhibited IL-15-induced NFκB luciferase activity. The effect of IL-15 was mediated by its specific receptor IL-15Rα, since endothelia from IL-15Rα knockout mice showed delayed nuclear translocation of p65, whereas those from knockout mice lacking a co-receptor IL-2Rγ did not show such changes. At the mRNA level, IL-15 and TNF showed similar effects in decreasing the tight junction protein claudin-2 and increasing the p65 subunit of NFκB but exerted different regulation on caveolin-1 and vimentin. Taken together, NFκB is a major signal transducer by which IL-15 affects cellular permeability, endocytosis, and intracellular trafficking at the level of the blood-brain barrier.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / metabolism
  • Caveolin 1 / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cerebellum / cytology
  • Claudins / metabolism
  • Endothelial Cells / metabolism*
  • Enzyme Activation
  • I-kappa B Kinase / antagonists & inhibitors
  • I-kappa B Kinase / metabolism
  • Interleukin-15 / genetics
  • Interleukin-15 / metabolism*
  • Interleukin-15 Receptor alpha Subunit / deficiency
  • Interleukin-15 Receptor alpha Subunit / genetics
  • Interleukin-15 Receptor alpha Subunit / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism*
  • Phosphorylation
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • Transcription Factor RelA / metabolism
  • Transcriptional Activation
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / genetics
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism
  • Vimentin / metabolism


  • Caveolin 1
  • Claudins
  • Cldn2 protein, mouse
  • Interleukin-15
  • Interleukin-15 Receptor alpha Subunit
  • NF-kappa B
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor
  • Transcription Factor RelA
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Vimentin
  • I-kappa B Kinase