The role of IL-15 in gastrointestinal diseases: a bridge between innate and adaptive immune response

Cytokine Growth Factor Rev. 2013 Oct;24(5):455-66. doi: 10.1016/j.cytogfr.2013.05.004. Epub 2013 Jun 21.


IL-15 is a member of the IL-2 family of cytokines whose signaling pathways are a bridge between innate and adaptive immune response. IL-15 is part of the intestinal mucosal barrier, and functions to modulate gut homeostasis. IL-15 has pivotal roles in the control of development, proliferation and survival of both innate and adaptive immune cells. IL-15 becomes up-regulated in the inflamed tissue of intestinal inflammatory disease, such as IBD, Celiac Disease and related complications. Indeed, several studies have reported that IL-15 may participate to the pathogenesis of these diseases. Furthermore, although IL-15 seems to be responsible for inflammation and autoimmunity, it also may increase the immune response against cancer. For these reasons, we decided to study the intestinal mucosa as an 'immunological niche', in which immune response, inflammation and local homeostasis are modulated. Understanding the role of the IL-15/IL-15R system will provide a scientific basis for the development of new approaches that use IL-15 for immunotherapy of autoimmune diseases and malignancies. Indeed, a better understanding of the complexity of the mucosal immune system will contribute to the general understanding of immuno-pathology, which could lead to new therapeutical tools for widespread immuno-mediated diseases.

Keywords: Celiac Disease; Colorectal cancer; IL-15; Immunological niche; Inflammatory Bowel Diseases.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptive Immunity*
  • Animals
  • Celiac Disease / immunology*
  • Celiac Disease / pathology
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate*
  • Immunity, Mucosal
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / immunology*
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / pathology
  • Interleukin-15 / immunology*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / immunology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / pathology
  • Receptors, Interleukin-15 / immunology


  • IL15 protein, human
  • Interleukin-15
  • Receptors, Interleukin-15