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Science. 1993 Jul 2;261(5117):93-5.

Interleukin-7: a cofactor for V(D)J rearrangement of the T cell receptor beta gene.

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Biological Carcinogenesis and Development Program, Program Resources Inc./Dyncorp, National Cancer Institute-Frederick Cancer Research and Development Center, MD 21702.


The diversity of the T cell receptor repertoire is generated by rearrangement of gene elements in immature thymocytes. To identify a thymic signal that induces this rearrangement, a variety of agents were tested for their ability to induce rearrangement of the T cell receptor beta gene in suspensions of thymocytes from mouse embryos at day 14 of gestation. Of 16 agents tested, only interleukin-7 (IL-7) induced V(D)J gene rearrangement and sustained expression of the RAG-1 and RAG-2 genes, which are known to control rearrangement. These data implicate IL-7, a cytokine that is abundantly expressed in embryonic thymus, in driving gene rearrangement during early T cell development.

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