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Eur J Immunol. 2008 Jan;38(1):30-9.

The strength of T cell stimulation determines IL-7 responsiveness, secondary expansion, and lineage commitment of primed human CD4+IL-7Rhi T cells.

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Institute for Research in Biomedicine, Bellinzona, Switzerland.


Mouse memory T cell precursors express IL-7 receptor-alpha (IL-7R), proliferate with homeostatic cytokines and undergo secondary expansions with antigen. Here, we analyzed how the strength of antigenic stimulation regulates IL-7R expression, cytokine responsiveness and expansion potential of DC-primed human CD4(+ )T cells. IL-7R expression on proliferating T cells was highest at intermediate strength of stimulation, and purified CCR7(+)IL-7R(hi) and CCR7(-)IL-7R(lo) subsets had characteristics of memory and effector cells, respectively. However, CCR7(+)IL-7R(hi) cells generated under different priming conditions had strikingly different properties. Thus, increasing strength of stimulation promoted IL-7 responsiveness that correlated with reduced phosphatase and tensin homologue deleted on chromosome 10 (PTEN) expression and enhanced s6 kinase activation, suggesting a tunable IL-7R coupling to PI3 kinase-dependent signaling pathways. Furthermore, functional and gene expression analysis revealed that intermediate-stimulated CCR7(+)IL-7R(hi) cells were similar to non-polarized central memory cells with high expansion potential. Conversely, high-stimulated CCR7(+)IL-7R(hi) cells shared characteristics with circulating pre-Th1 cells and differentiated spontaneously to Th1 effector cells. These results show that the strength of stimulation determines properties of activated IL-7R(hi) T cells, and suggest that memory T cell subsets could be derived from CCR7(+) precursors that received different strengths of stimulation.

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