Date of Graduation


Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Kimberly Schluns

Committee Member

Gary Gallick

Committee Member

Stephen Ullrich

Committee Member

Stephanie Watowich

Committee Member

Willem Overwijk


The maintenance and generation of memory CD8 T cells is dependent on the cytokine IL-15. IL-15 is delivered by a novel mechanism termed transpresentation: IL-15 is presented by a cell expressing IL-15Ralpha to the CD8 T cell which responds via IL-2Rbeta/gammac. The identity of what cells transpresent IL-15 to support the survival and homeostatic proliferation of memory CD8 T cells is unknown. Using a transgenic mouse model that limits IL-15 transpresentation to DCs, I have demonstrated that DCs transpresent IL-15 to CD8 T cells. DCs transpresent IL-15 to CD8 T cells during the contraction of an immune response and also drive homeostatic proliferation of memory CD8 T cells. Additionally, I identified a role for ICAM-1 in promoting homeostatic proliferation. Wt memory CD8 T cells displayed impaired homeostatic proliferation in ICAM-1-/- hosts but not in models of acute IL-15-driven proliferation. In this way, the role of ICAM-1 in IL-15 transpresentation resembles the role for ICAM-1 in antigenpresentation: where antigen or IL-15 is limited, adhesion molecules are important for generating maximal responses. In vitro cultures between CD8 T cells and bone marrowdifferentiated DCs (BMDC) activated with a TLR agonist established a model of proliferation and signaling in CD8 T cells that was dependent on IL-15 transpresentation and required ICAM-1 expression by BMDCs. Regarding the expression of IL-15, I demonstrated that in normal mice it is undetectable without stimulation but is elevated in lymphopenic mice, suggesting a role for T cells in regulating IL-15 expression. Overall, these studies have identified many novel aspects of the interaction between DCs and CD8 T cells that were previously unknown. The study of adhesion molecules in IL-15 transpresentation describes a novel role for these well-known adhesion molecules and it will be interesting for future studies to further characterize this relationship for other IL-15-dependent cell types.


Memory CD8 T cell, Immune memory, IL-15, transpresentation