The Roles of IL-7 and IL-15 in Niches for Lymphocyte Progenitors and Immune Cells in Lymphoid Organs

Curr Top Microbiol Immunol. 2021;434:83-101. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-86016-5_4.


Lymphoid organs consist of immune cells and stromal cells. The stromal cells produce various cytokines that support the development, maintenance, and response of the immune cells. IL-7 and IL-15 are the major cytokines produced by stromal cells and are essential for the development and maintenance of lymphocytes and innate lymphoid cells (ILCs). In addition, IL-7 is indispensable for the organogenesis of lymphoid organs. However, because the amount of these two cytokines is relatively low, it has been difficult to directly detect their expression. Recently, several groups succeeded in establishing IL-7 and IL-15 reporter mouse lines. As expected, IL-7 and IL-15 were detected in mesenchymal stromal cells in the bone marrow and lymph nodes and in epithelial cells in the thymus. Furthermore, IL-7 and IL-15 were differentially expressed in lymphatic endothelial cells and blood endothelial cells, respectively. In addition to their expression, many groups have analyzed the local functions of IL-7 and IL-15 by using cell-type-specific knockout mice. From these experiments, CXCL12-expressing mesenchymal stromal cells were identified as the major niche for early B cell precursors. Single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) analysis has revealed different subpopulations of stromal cells in the lymphoid organs, including those that express both IL-7 and IL-15. Future research is still needed to elucidate which stromal cells serve as the niche for the early precursors of ILCs and NK cells in the bone marrow.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Endothelial Cells
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Interleukin-15* / genetics
  • Interleukin-7* / genetics
  • Killer Cells, Natural
  • Mice


  • Interleukin-15
  • Interleukin-7