IL-7 promotes the survival and maturation but not differentiation of human post-thymic CD4+ T cells

Eur J Immunol. 1998 Oct;28(10):3057-65. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1521-4141(199810)28:10<3057::AID-IMMU3057>3.0.CO;2-Z.


This study examines the influence of IL-7 on post-thymic CD4+ T cells using cord blood as a model system. Survival of naive cord blood T cells in the presence of IL-7 alone was significantly prolonged by up-regulating bcl-2, thereby preventing apoptosis while maintaining maximal cell viability. Cultures without IL-7 showed high rates of apoptosis resulting in 50% cell death by day 5 of culture. Upon phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate + ionomycin stimulation, accumulation of cytoplasmic IL-2 was similar to that observed in freshly isolated cells, but no IL-4- or IFN-gamma-positive cells were detected. IL-7 maintained the naive T cells in a quiescent state expressing the CD45RA antigen. A significant finding was the loss of CD38 antigen expression on the naive cord blood T cells to levels similar to that observed on adult naive T cells. In contrast to the reduced proliferative response of fresh cord blood T cells to anti-CD2 + CD28 stimulation, the proliferative response of IL-7-treated cells was similar to that of adult naive T cells. This study shows that as well as maintaining the naive T cell pool by enhancing cell survival and up-regulating bcl-2 expression, IL-7 also functions as a maturation factor for post-thymic naive T cells.

MeSH terms

  • ADP-ribosyl Cyclase
  • ADP-ribosyl Cyclase 1
  • Adult
  • Antigens, CD*
  • Antigens, Differentiation / metabolism
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / cytology
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / drug effects*
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Division
  • Cell Survival
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Down-Regulation
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-7 / pharmacology*
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • NAD+ Nucleosidase / metabolism
  • Thymus Gland / cytology


  • Antigens, CD
  • Antigens, Differentiation
  • Interleukin-7
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • ADP-ribosyl Cyclase
  • CD38 protein, human
  • NAD+ Nucleosidase
  • ADP-ribosyl Cyclase 1