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J Immunol. 2003 Apr 15;170(8):4087-94.

Distinct requirements for IL-7 in development of TCR gamma delta cells during fetal and adult life.

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Department of Medicine, Division of Immunology, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, CT 06030, USA.


TCRgammadelta-transgenic IL-7(-/-) mice were generated to determine whether T cells containing productively rearranged TCRgammadelta genes have additional requirements for IL-7 within the thymus or peripheral lymphoid tissues. Differences in developmental requirements for IL-7 by TCRgammadelta cells were noted and were linked to derivation from fetal- vs adult-type precursors in the thymus. Although TCRgammadelta cells are absent from IL-7(-/-) mice, TCRgammadelta cells were restored to the thymus and periphery by expression of TCRgammadelta transgenes. Endogenous TCRgamma chains were expressed by IL-7(+/-) but not IL-7(-/-) TCRgammadelta-transgenic mice, providing direct support for findings that IL-7 is necessary for rearrangement and expression of TCRgamma genes. The number of TCRgammadelta thymocytes was 10-fold reduced in TCRgammadelta-transgenic IL-7(-/-) embryos; however, adult TCRgammadelta-transgenic IL-7(-/-) or IL-7(+/-) mice had similar numbers of fetal thymus-derived TCRgammadelta cells in their skin. Thus, fetal TCRgammadelta cells required IL-7 for TCR rearrangement, but not for proliferation or survival in the periphery. In contrast, the numbers of TCRgammadelta cells in other tissues of TCRgammadelta-transgenic IL-7(-/-) mice were not completely restored. Moreover, coincident with the transition from the first to second wave of T cell precursors maturing in neonatal thymus, thymus cellularity of TCRgammadelta-transgenic IL-7(-/-) mice dropped significantly. These data indicated that in addition to TCRVgamma gene rearrangement, TCRgammadelta cells differentiating from late fetal liver or adult bone marrow precursors have additional requirements for IL-7. BrdU incorporation studies indicated that although IL-7 was not required for TCRgammadelta cell proliferation, it was required to prolong the life span of mature TCRgammadelta cells.

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