The role of IL-15 in the regulation of neural stem cell biology appears as a key mechanism in the control of adult neurogenesis, with direct implications for the development of pathologies with a neuroimmune component.
The impact of inflammation is crucial for the regulation of the biology of neural stem cells (NSCs). Interleukin-15 (IL-15) appears as a likely candidate for regulating neurogenesis, based on its well-known mitogenic properties. We show here that NSCs of the subventricular zone (SVZ) express IL-15, which regulates NSC proliferation, as evidenced by the study of IL-15−/− mice and the effects of acute IL-15 administration, coupled to 5-bromo-2′-deoxyuridine/5-ethynyl-2′-deoxyuridine dual-pulse labeling. Moreover, IL-15 regulates NSC differentiation, its deficiency leading to an impaired generation of neuroblasts in the SVZ–rostral migratory stream axis, recoverable through the action of exogenous IL-15. IL-15 expressed in cultured NSCs is linked to self-renewal, proliferation, and differentiation. IL-15–/– NSCs presented deficient proliferation and self-renewal, as evidenced in proliferation and colony-forming assays and the analysis of cell cycle–regulatory proteins. Moreover, IL-15–deficient NSCs were more prone to differentiate than wild-type NSCs, not affecting the cell population balance. Lack of IL-15 led to a defective activation of the JAK/STAT and ERK pathways, key for the regulation of proliferation and differentiation of NSCs. The results show that IL-15 is a key regulator of neurogenesis in the adult and is essential to understanding diseases with an inflammatory component.