Interleukin-7 (IL-7) is important for thymopoiesis in mice and humans because IL-7 receptor α (IL-7Rα) mutations result in a severe combined immunodeficiency phenotype with severe thymic hypoplasia. Recent evidence has indicated that IL-7 also plays an important role as a regulator of T-cell homeostasis. Here we report the immunologic effects of recombinant human IL-7 (rhIL-7) therapy in normal and simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV)-infected nonhuman primates. Cynomolgus monkeys receiving 10 days of rhIL-7 showed substantial, reversible increases in T-cell numbers involving a dramatic expansion of both naive and nonnaive phenotype CD4+ and CD8+ subsets. Although IL-7 is known to have thymopoietic effects in mice, we observed marked declines in the frequency and absolute number of T-cell receptor excision circle-positive (TREC+) cells in the peripheral blood and dramatic increases in the percentage of cycling T cells in the peripheral blood as measured by Ki-67 expression (baseline less than 5% to approximately 50% after 6 days of therapy) and ex vivo bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) incorporation. Similarly, moderately CD4-depleted SIV-infected macaques treated with rhIL-7 also had significant increases in peripheral blood CD4+ and CD8+ T cells following rhIL-7 therapy. Thus, rhIL-7 induces dramatic alterations in peripheral T-cell homeostasis in both T-cell-replete and T-cell-depleted nonhuman primates. These results further implicate IL-7 as a promising immunorestorative agent but illustrate that a major component of its immunorestorative capacity reflects effects on mature cells. These results also raise the possibility that IL-7 therapy could be used to temporarily modulate T-cell cycling in vivo in the context of immunotherapies such as vaccination.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology