Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 19923447
J. Immunol. 2009 Dec;183(12):7645-55
IL-7 is a central cytokine in the development of hematopoietic cells, although interspecies discrepancies have been reported. By coculturing human postnatal thymus hematopoietic progenitors and OP9-huDL1 stromal cells, we found that murine IL-7 is approximately 100-fold less potent than human IL-7 for supporting human T cell development in vitro. We investigated the role of human IL-7 in newborn BALB/c Rag2(-/-)gamma(c)(-/-) mice transplanted with human hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) as an in vivo model of human hematopoiesis using three approaches to improve IL-7 signaling: administration of human IL-7, ectopic expression of human IL-7 by the transplanted human HSC, or enforced expression of a murine/human chimeric IL-7 receptor binding murine IL-7. We show that premature IL-7 signaling at the HSC stage, before entrance in the thymus, impeded T cell development, whereas increased intrathymic IL-7 signaling significantly enhanced the maintenance of immature thymocytes. Increased thymopoiesis was also observed when we transplanted BCL-2- or BCL-x(L)-transduced human HSC. Homeostasis of peripheral mature T cells in this humanized mouse model was not improved by any of these strategies. Overall, our results provide evidence for an important role of IL-7 in human T cell development in vivo and highlight the notion that IL-7 availability is but one of many signals that condition peripheral T cell homeostasis.