IL-7: Comprehensive review

Cytokine. 2022 Dec:160:156049. doi: 10.1016/j.cyto.2022.156049. Epub 2022 Oct 3.


Overview: IL-7 is a member of the family of cytokines with four anti-parallel α helixes that bind Type I cytokine receptors. It is produced by stromal cells and is required for development and homeostatic survival of lymphoid cells.

Genomic architecture: Interleukin 7 (IL7) human IL7: gene ID: 3574 on ch 8; murine Il7 gene ID: 16,196 on ch 3.

Protein: Precursor contains a signal sequence, mature human IL-7 peptide 152aa, predicted 17.4kd peptide, glycosylated resulting in 25kd. Crystal structure: REGULATION OF IL-7 PRODUCTION: Major producers are stromal cells in thymus, bone marrow and lymphoid organs but also reported in other tissues. Production is primarily constitutive but reported to be affected by IFNγ and other factors. IL-7 RECEPTORS: Two chains IL-7Rα (IL-7R) and γc (IL-2RG). Human IL-7R: gene ID 3575 on ch 5; human IL2RG: gene ID 3561 on ch X; mouse IL-7R: gene ID 16,197 on ch 15; murine Il2rg gene ID 16,186 on ch X. Member of γc family of receptors for cytokines IL-2, -4, -9, -15, and -21. Primarily expressed on lymphocytes but reports of other cell types. Expression in T-cells downregulated by IL-7. Low expression on Tregs, no expression on mature B-cells. Crystal structure: IL-7 RECEPTOR SIGNAL TRANSDUCTION PATHWAYS: Major signals through JAK1, JAK3 to STAT5 and through non-canonical STAT3, STAT1, PI3K/AKT and MEK/ERK pathways. BIOLOGICAL ACTIVITY OF IL-7: Required for survival of immature thymocytes, naïve T-cells, memory T-cells, pro-B-cells and innate lymphocytes. Pharmacological treatment with IL-7 induces expansion of naïve and memory T-cells and pro-B-cells. ABNORMALITIES OF THE IL-7 PATHWAY IN DISEASE: Deficiencies in the IL-7 pathway in humans and mice result in severe combined immunodeficiency due to lymphopenia. Excessive signaling of the pathway in mice drives autoimmune diseases and in humans is associated with autoimmune syndromes including multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, sarcoidosis, atopic dermatitis and asthma. Mutations in the IL-7 receptor pathway drive acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Clinical applications: IL-7 has been evaluated in patients with cancer and shown to expand lymphocytes. It accelerated lymphocyte recovery after hematopoietic stem cell transfer, and increased lymphocyte counts in AIDS patients and sepsis patients. Monoclonal antibodies blocking the IL-7 receptor are being evaluated in autoimmune diseases. Cytotoxic monoclonals are being evaluated in acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Drugs blocking the signal transduction pathway are being tested in autoimmunity and acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Autoimmune Diseases*
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-2 / metabolism
  • Interleukin-7 / pharmacology
  • Mice
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase Kinases / metabolism
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / metabolism
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma*
  • Protein Sorting Signals
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism
  • Receptors, Interleukin-7 / genetics
  • Receptors, Interleukin-7 / metabolism
  • STAT5 Transcription Factor / metabolism


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Interleukin-2
  • Interleukin-7
  • Protein Sorting Signals
  • Receptors, Interleukin-7
  • STAT5 Transcription Factor
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase Kinases