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Genes Immun. 2010 Jan;11(1):11-20. doi: 10.1038/gene.2009.77. Epub 2009 Oct 22.

Interleukin-7 (IL-7) and IL-7 splice variants affect differentiation of human neural progenitor cells.

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Group of Toxicology, Institut für Umweltmedizinische Forschung, Düsseldorf, Germany.


Alternative splicing of pre-mRNA increases proteomic diversity, a crucial mechanism in defining tissue identity. We demonstrate differentially spliced interleukin (IL)-7 in distinct anatomic areas in the adult, in developing human brains and in normal human neuronal progenitor (NHNP) cells. IL-7c (c, the canonical form spanning all six exons) or its variants IL-7 delta 5, delta 4 or delta 4/5 were cloned and expressed as recombinant proteins. IL-7 and splice variants were able to shift the differentiation of NHNP cells as compared with the diluent control (P<0.01) defined by anti-beta (III)-tubulin and glial fibrillary acidic protein expression, with different degrees (IL-7c>delta 4/5>IL-7 delta 5); IL-7 delta 4 exhibited a significantly weaker potency. Differentiation was confirmed by transcriptome analysis of IL-7c-stimulated neural NHNP cells, resulting in 58 differentially expressed genes; some of these are involved in neural differentiation, for example, the developmentally regulated transcription factor krüppel-like factor 12, musashi 2, a translational regulator of cell fate or the sonic hedgehog receptor patch 1. This suggests that IL-7 influences neural development at a molecular level by participating in human brain architecture through glia cell formation: a paradigm that alternative splicing in cytokines, for example, for IL-7, has a physiological role in human organ development and progenitor cell differentiation.

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