Publications & Posters

Upregulation of IL-15 in the placenta alters trophoblasts behavior contributing to gestational diabetes mellitus

Cell & Bioscience | February 8, 2021

Li J, Li Y, Zhou X, Wei L, Zhang J, Zhu S, Zhang H, Gao X, Sharifu LM, Wang S, Xi L and Feng L

Cell Biosci. 2021;11:33




Interleukin-15 (IL-15), a member of the ‘four α-helix bundle’ cytokine family, has been associated with many inflammatory and metabolic diseases. Abnormal expression of IL-15 has been linked to the occurrence and development of obesity and diabetes. However, there is a paucity of research on the involvement of IL-15 in Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM). This study aims at investigating the role of IL-15 in the pathogenesis of GDM.


IL-15 was consistently expressed in the placenta throughout pregnancy and dynamically changed with pregnancy progress. Trophoblasts have been identified as the major source of IL-15 in the placenta. Expression of IL-15 was significantly increased in the placenta of GDM and in the trophoblasts cultured with high glucose (HG). In our study, expression of IL-15 in the placenta was positively correlated with blood glucose concentration of 75 g Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT), and was inversely correlated with weight of newborns. Further investigations in vitro showed that exogenous addition of IL-15 promoted trophoblasts proliferation, improved invasion and tube formation ability by activating the JAK/STAT signaling pathway, which be blocked by JAK inhibitors.


Our results demonstrated that IL-15 expression in the placenta was dynamically changing during pregnancy, and it was upregulated in the placenta of GDM patients. Furthermore, IL-15 altered the biological behavior of trophoblasts through JAK/STAT signaling pathway in vitro, and may contributed to the placental pathology of GDM. Our findings provide a new direction for studying the pathophysiological changes of placenta in GDM.