IL-7 plays a critical role for the homeostasis of allergen-specific memory CD4 T cells in the lung and airways

Sci Rep. 2017 Sep 11;7(1):11155. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-11492-7.


Memory T cells respond rapidly to repeated antigen exposure and can maintain their population for extended periods through self-renewal. These characteristics of memory T cells have mainly been studied during viral infections, whereas their existence and functions in allergic diseases have been studied incompletely. Since allergic patients can suffer repeated relapses caused by intermittent allergen exposure, we hypothesized that allergen- specific memory Th2 cells are present and the factors necessary for the maintenance of these cells are provided by the lung and airways. Using a murine model of airway inflammation, we found that allergen-specific CD4 T cells survived longer than 70 days in the lung and airways in an IL-7 dependent fashion. These T cells showing homeostatic proliferation were largely found in the mediastinal lymph node (mLN), rather than the airways; however, cells residing in the lung and airways developed recall responses successfully. We also found that CD4 T cells exhibited differential phenotypes in the mLN and in the lung. Altogether, we believe that allergen-specific memory T cells reside and function in the lung and airways, while their numbers are replenished through homeostatic turnover in the mLNs. Furthermore, we determined that IL-7 signaling is important for the homeostasis of these cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Allergens / immunology*
  • Animals
  • Asthma / immunology
  • Asthma / metabolism
  • Asthma / pathology
  • Biomarkers
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism*
  • Environment
  • Female
  • Homeostasis
  • Immunologic Memory*
  • Immunophenotyping
  • Interleukin-7 / metabolism*
  • Lung / immunology
  • Lung / metabolism
  • Lung / pathology
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Lymphocyte Count
  • Mice
  • Models, Biological
  • Phenotype
  • Respiratory System / immunology*
  • Respiratory System / metabolism*
  • Respiratory System / pathology
  • Signal Transduction
  • T-Cell Antigen Receptor Specificity*


  • Allergens
  • Biomarkers
  • Interleukin-7