Cutting Edge: memory regulatory t cells require IL-7 and not IL-2 for their maintenance in peripheral tissues

J Immunol. 2013 May 1;190(9):4483-7. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1300212. Epub 2013 Mar 29.


Thymic Foxp3-expressing regulatory T cells are activated by peripheral self-antigen to increase their suppressive function, and a fraction of these cells survive as memory regulatory T cells (mTregs). mTregs persist in nonlymphoid tissue after cessation of Ag expression and have enhanced capacity to suppress tissue-specific autoimmunity. In this study, we show that murine mTregs express specific effector memory T cell markers and localize preferentially to hair follicles in skin. Memory Tregs express high levels of both IL-2Rα and IL-7Rα. Using a genetic-deletion approach, we show that IL-2 is required to generate mTregs from naive CD4(+) T cell precursors in vivo. However, IL-2 is not required to maintain these cells in the skin and skin-draining lymph nodes. Conversely, IL-7 is essential for maintaining mTregs in skin in the steady state. These results elucidate the fundamental biology of mTregs and show that IL-7 plays an important role in their survival in skin.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens / immunology
  • Autoimmunity / immunology
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Hair Follicle / immunology
  • Immunologic Memory / immunology*
  • Interleukin-2 Receptor alpha Subunit / immunology*
  • Lymph Nodes / immunology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Receptors, Interleukin-7 / immunology*
  • Skin / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology*


  • Antigens
  • Interleukin-2 Receptor alpha Subunit
  • Receptors, Interleukin-7
  • interleukin-7 receptor, alpha chain