The strength of T cell stimulation determines IL-7 responsiveness, secondary expansion, and lineage commitment of primed human CD4+IL-7Rhi T cells

Eur J Immunol. 2008 Jan;38(1):30-9. doi: 10.1002/eji.200737852.


Mouse memory T cell precursors express IL-7 receptor-alpha (IL-7R), proliferate with homeostatic cytokines and undergo secondary expansions with antigen. Here, we analyzed how the strength of antigenic stimulation regulates IL-7R expression, cytokine responsiveness and expansion potential of DC-primed human CD4(+ )T cells. IL-7R expression on proliferating T cells was highest at intermediate strength of stimulation, and purified CCR7(+)IL-7R(hi) and CCR7(-)IL-7R(lo) subsets had characteristics of memory and effector cells, respectively. However, CCR7(+)IL-7R(hi) cells generated under different priming conditions had strikingly different properties. Thus, increasing strength of stimulation promoted IL-7 responsiveness that correlated with reduced phosphatase and tensin homologue deleted on chromosome 10 (PTEN) expression and enhanced s6 kinase activation, suggesting a tunable IL-7R coupling to PI3 kinase-dependent signaling pathways. Furthermore, functional and gene expression analysis revealed that intermediate-stimulated CCR7(+)IL-7R(hi) cells were similar to non-polarized central memory cells with high expansion potential. Conversely, high-stimulated CCR7(+)IL-7R(hi) cells shared characteristics with circulating pre-Th1 cells and differentiated spontaneously to Th1 effector cells. These results show that the strength of stimulation determines properties of activated IL-7R(hi) T cells, and suggest that memory T cell subsets could be derived from CCR7(+) precursors that received different strengths of stimulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / cytology
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Cell Lineage
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytokines
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Gene Expression
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Memory*
  • Interleukin-7 / immunology
  • Lymphocyte Activation / immunology*
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Receptors, CCR7 / immunology
  • Receptors, Interleukin-7 / biosynthesis
  • Receptors, Interleukin-7 / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / cytology
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / metabolism


  • CCR7 protein, human
  • Cytokines
  • IL7 protein, human
  • Interleukin-7
  • Receptors, CCR7
  • Receptors, Interleukin-7
  • interleukin-7 receptor, alpha chain