Interleukin 7 And Its Receptor

Shin-lchi Nishikawa, Department of Molecular Genetics, Faculty of Medicine, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan

Millions of lymphocytes are produced each day and recruited to the periphery. In human and mouse, the major sites of their production are bone marrow and thymus for B and T lymphocytes, respectively. Although in vitro propagation of T cell progenitors and human B cell progenitors is yet to be attained, it has been possible to maintain the growth of murine B cell progenitors in culture since Whitlock and Witte developed culture conditions modified from those of Dexter's long-term bone marrow culture. Whitlock-Witte type long-term culture consists of two components: a hematopoietic cell lineage including B cell progenitors and adherent stromal cells which support their growth. Cloned stromal cell lines were established which were able to support the proliferation of single purified B cell progenitors.

Interleukin 7 (IL-7) was identified and molecularly cloned from one such stromal cell line as a soluble factor able to stimulate the proliferation of stromal cell-dependent pre-B cells. Subsequently, cDNA encoding the receptor for IL-7, which is now known as IL-7Ra, was cloned from both human and mouse. Recent evidence demonstrates that IL-7 is an essential molecule for the production of murine B and T cells. Although its role in human B lymphopoiesis is still unclear, it would appear to play a role in T cell production in the human thymus.

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