Interleukin-15-Induced CD56<sup>+</sup> Myeloid Dendritic Cells Combine Potent Tumor Antigen Presentation with Direct Tumoricidal Potential

<div><p>Dendritic cells (DCs) are the quintessential antigen-presenting cells of the human immune system and play a prime role in coordinating innate and adaptive immune responses, explaining the strong and still growing interest in their application for cancer immunotherapy. Much current research in the field of DC-based immunotherapy focuses on optimizing the culture conditions for <em>in vitro</em> DC generation in order to assure that DCs with the best possible immunogenic qualities are being used for immunotherapy. In this context, monocyte-derived DCs that are alternatively induced by interleukin-15 (IL-15 DCs) have attracted recent attention due to their superior immunostimulatory characteristics. In this study, we show that IL-15 DCs, in addition to potent tumor antigen-presenting function, possess tumoricidal potential and thus qualify for the designation of killer DCs. Notwithstanding marked expression of the natural killer (NK) cell marker CD56 on a subset of IL-15 DCs, we found no evidence of a further phenotypic overlap between IL-15 DCs and NK cells. Allostimulation and antigen presentation assays confirmed that IL-15 DCs should be regarded as <em>bona fide</em> myeloid DCs not only from the phenotypic but also from the functional point of view. Concerning their cytotoxic activity, we demonstrate that IL-15 DCs are able to induce apoptotic cell death of the human K562 tumor cell line, while sparing tumor antigen-specific T cells. The cytotoxicity of IL-15 DCs is predominantly mediated by granzyme B and, to a small extent, by tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α)-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) but is independent of perforin, Fas ligand and TNF-α. In conclusion, our data provide evidence of a previously unappreciated role for IL-15 in the differentiation of human monocytes towards killer DCs. The observation that IL-15 DCs have killer DC capacity lends further support to their implementation in DC-based immunotherapy protocols.</p> </div>