The naïve and memory T lymphocyte pools are maintained through poorly understood homeostatic mechanisms that may include signaling via cytokine receptors. We show that interleukin-7 (IL-7) plays multiple roles in regulating homeostasis of CD8+ T cells. We found that IL-7 was required for homeostatic expansion of naïve CD8+ and CD4+ T cells in lymphopenic hosts and for CD8+ T cell survival in normal hosts. In contrast, IL-7 was not necessary for growth of CD8+ T cells in response to a virus infection but was critical for generating T cell memory. Up-regulation of Bcl-2 in the absence of IL-7 signaling was impaired after activation in vivo. Homeostatic proliferation of memory cells was also partially dependent on IL-7. These results point to IL-7 as a pivotal cytokine in T cell homeostasis.
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Acknowledgments Supported by NIH grants AI35917 and DK45260 (to L. L),AI38903 and ACS RPG-99-264 (to S. C. J.), and NIH training grant AR-07582 (to K. S.) and NIH training grant AI-07313 (to W. C. K.).