Selective expression of the interleukin 7 receptor identifies effector CD8 T cells that give rise to long-lived memory cells

Nat Immunol. 2003 Dec;4(12):1191-8. doi: 10.1038/ni1009. Epub 2003 Nov 16.


A major unanswered question is what distinguishes the majority of activated CD8 T cells that die after an acute viral infection from the small fraction (5-10%) that survive to become long-lived memory cells. In this study we show that increased expression of the interleukin 7 receptor alpha-chain (IL-7Ralpha) identifies the effector CD8 T cells that will differentiate into memory cells. IL-7R(hi) effector cells contained increased amounts of antiapoptotic molecules, and adoptive transfer of IL-7R(hi) and IL-7R(lo) effector cells showed that IL-7R(hi) cells preferentially gave rise to memory cells that could persist and confer protective immunity. Thus, selective expression of IL-7R identifies memory cell precursors, and this marker may be useful in predicting the number of memory T cells generated after infection or immunization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adoptive Transfer
  • Animals
  • Antigens, Surface
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / cytology*
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / physiology
  • Cell Differentiation / immunology*
  • Cell Lineage / immunology
  • Gene Expression / immunology
  • Immunologic Memory*
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis / immunology
  • Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus / immunology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Receptors, Interleukin-7 / biosynthesis*
  • Signal Transduction / immunology
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / cytology*
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / physiology


  • Antigens, Surface
  • Receptors, Interleukin-7