This result was confirmed in MHC class Ia-deficient mice in which IL-15 deficiency also reduced H2-M3-restricted but not all CD8 T cell responses to L. monocytogenes. IL-15 deficiency did not affect proliferation or survival of responding H2-M3-restricted CD8(+) T cells, but IL-15 was necessary to detect H2-M3-restricted CD8(+) T cells in naive mice.
This finding suggests that these CD8(+) T cells require IL-15 during development, but become IL-15 independent after activation. IL-15 was necessary for the survival of most class Ib-restricted CD8(+) T cells, starting at the mature thymocyte stage in naive mice, but does not affect a distinct CD44(low)/CD122(low) subpopulation.
These data suggest that the nature of the selecting MHC class Ib molecule determines whether CD8(+) T cells acquire IL-15 dependence during thymic development.