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Nat Immunol. 2013 Feb;14(2):143-51. doi: 10.1038/ni.2494. Epub 2012 Dec 16.

IL-7 signaling must be intermittent, not continuous, during CD8⁺ T cell homeostasis to promote cell survival instead of cell death.

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Experimental Immunology Branch, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.


The maintenance of naive CD8(+) T cells is necessary for lifelong immunocompetence but for unknown reasons requires signaling via both interleukin 7 (IL-7) and the T cell antigen receptor (TCR). We now report that naive CD8(+) T cells required IL-7 signaling to be intermittent, not continuous, because prolonged IL-7 signaling induced naive CD8(+) T cells to proliferate, produce interferon-γ (IFN-γ) and undergo IFN-γ-triggered cell death. Homeostatic engagement of the TCR interrupted IL-7 signaling and thereby supported the survival and quiescence of CD8(+) T cells. However, CD8(+) T cells with insufficient TCR affinity for self ligands received prolonged IL-7 signaling and died during homeostasis. In this study we identified regulation of the duration of IL-7 signaling by homeostatic engagement of the TCR as the basis for in vivo CD8(+) T cell homeostasis.

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