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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1989 Aug; 86(15): 5923–5927.
PMCID: PMC297743

Interleukin 7 is a T-cell growth factor.


Interleukin 7 (IL-7) is a 25-kDa cytokine which was purified and its corresponding cDNA was cloned based upon its ability to stimulate the proliferation of pre-B cells. It has been shown that IL-7 can also function as a costimulator with Con A for the proliferation of T lymphocytes by inducing the production of interleukin 2 (IL-2). We demonstrate here that IL-7 in combination with phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate can directly drive the proliferation of purified T cells and that this response is not inhibited by cyclosporine A or by antibodies to IL-2 and IL-4. Stimulation of T cells with phorbol myristate acetate and IL-2, IL-4, or IL-7 prepared T cells to respond to any of the three lymphokines. Although T cells activated in vitro by anti-CD3 or allogeneic cells failed to proliferate when challenged with IL-7, T cells primed in vivo to the same stimuli demonstrated a significant proliferative response when restimulated in vitro with IL-7. IL-7 can, therefore, function both as a growth factor for T cells in an IL-2-independent manner and as a competence factor for the induction of lymphokine responsiveness. The ability to induce IL-7 responsiveness via stimulation of the T-cell receptor complex in vivo, but not in vitro, raises the possibility that IL-7 may play a role in T-cell growth and differentiation in vivo.

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