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Eur J Immunol. 2007 Sep;37(9):2606-16.

gamma(c) cytokines provide multiple homeostatic signals to naive CD4(+) T cells.

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Cytokines and Lymphoid Development Unit, Immunology Department, Institut Pasteur, Paris, France.


Cytokines signaling through receptors sharing the common gamma chain (gamma(c)), including IL-2, IL-4, IL-7, IL-9, IL-15 and IL-21, are critical for the generation and peripheral homeostasis of B, T and NK cells. To identify unique or redundant roles for gamma(c) cytokines in naive CD4(+) T cells, we compared monoclonal populations of CD4(+) T cells from TCR-Tg mice that were gamma(c) (+), gamma(c) (-), CD127(-/-) or CD122(-/-). We found that gamma(c) (-) naive CD4(+) T cells failed to accumulate in the peripheral lymphoid organs and the few remaining cells were characterized by small size, decreased expression of MHC class I and enhanced apoptosis. By over-expressing human Bcl-2, peripheral naive CD4(+) T cells that lack gamma(c) could be rescued. Bcl-2(+) gamma(c) (-) CD4(+) T cells demonstrated enhanced survival characteristics in vivo and in vitro, and could proliferate normally in vitro in response to antigen. Nevertheless, Bcl-2(+) gamma(c) (-) CD4(+) T cells remained small in size, and this phenotype was not corrected by enforced expression of an activated protein kinase B. We conclude that gamma(c) cytokines (primarily but not exclusively IL-7) provide Bcl-2-dependent as well as Bcl-2-independent signals to maintain the phenotype and homeostasis of the peripheral naive CD4(+) T cell pool.

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