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J Immunol. 2005 May 15;174(10):6039-44.

Spontaneous and homeostatic proliferation of CD4 T cells are regulated by different mechanisms.

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  • 1Laboratory of Immunology, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


Transfer of naive CD4 T cells into lymphopenic mice initiates a proliferative response of the transferred cells, often referred to as homeostatic proliferation. Careful analysis reveals that some of the transferred cells proliferate rapidly and undergo robust differentiation to memory cells, a process we have designated spontaneous proliferation, and other cells proliferate relatively slowly and show more limited evidence of differentiation. In this study we report that spontaneous proliferation is IL-7 independent, whereas the slow proliferation (referred to as homeostatic proliferation) is IL-7 dependent. Administration of IL-7 induces homeostatic proliferation of naive CD4 T cells even within wild-type recipients. Moreover, the activation/differentiation pattern of the two responses are clearly distinguishable, indicating that different activation mechanisms may be involved. Our results reveal the complexity and heterogeneity of lymphopenia-driven T cell proliferation and suggest that they may have fundamentally distinct roles in the maintenance of CD4 T cell homeostasis.

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