Harnessing the biology of IL-7 for therapeutic application

Nat Rev Immunol. 2011 May;11(5):330-42. doi: 10.1038/nri2970.


Interleukin-7 (IL-7) is required for T cell development and for maintaining and restoring homeostasis of mature T cells. IL-7 is a limiting resource under normal conditions, but it accumulates during lymphopaenia, leading to increased T cell proliferation. The administration of recombinant human IL-7 to normal or lymphopenic mice, non-human primates and humans results in widespread T cell proliferation, increased T cell numbers, modulation of peripheral T cell subsets and increased T cell receptor repertoire diversity. These effects raise the prospect that IL-7 could mediate therapeutic benefits in several clinical settings. This Review summarizes the biology of IL-7 and the results of its clinical use that are available so far to provide a perspective on the opportunities for clinical application of this cytokine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-7 / immunology
  • Interleukin-7 / physiology*
  • Interleukin-7 / therapeutic use*
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Lymphopenia / drug therapy*
  • Lymphopenia / immunology
  • Mice
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Receptors, Interleukin-7 / genetics
  • Receptors, Interleukin-7 / metabolism
  • Recombinant Proteins / therapeutic use
  • Signal Transduction
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / physiology
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / physiology*
  • Virus Diseases / drug therapy*


  • Interleukin-7
  • Receptors, Interleukin-7
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • interleukin-7 receptor, alpha chain