The trophic action of IL-7 on pro-T cells: inhibition of apoptosis of pro-T1, -T2, and -T3 cells correlates with Bcl-2 and Bax levels and is independent of Fas and p53 pathways.J Immunol 1998; 160(12):5735-41JI
Signals from the IL-7R are essential for normal thymocyte development. We isolated thymocytes from early developmental stages and observed that suspensions of pro-T1, -T2, and -T3 cells rapidly died in culture. Addition of IL-7 promoted their survival, but did not induce cell division. Pro-T4 cells did not undergo rapid cell death, and their survival was therefore independent of IL-7. Death in the absence of IL-7 showed the hallmarks of apoptosis, including DNA fragmentation and annexin V binding; however, caspase inhibitors blocked DNA fragmentation, but did not block cell death. The trophic effect of IL-7 was partially inhibited by blocking protein synthesis. The p53 pathway was not involved in this death pathway, since pro-T cells from p53-/- mice also underwent cell death in the absence of IL-7. The Fas/Fas ligand pathway was not involved in cell death, since Fas-deficient pro-T cells died normally in the absence of IL-7, anti-Fas Abs did not protect cells from death in the absence of IL-7, and Fas expression was undetectable on cells at these stages. The IL-7 trophic affect correlated with increased intracellular levels of Bcl-2 and decreased levels of Bax, whereas no Bcl-X(L), Bcl-w, or Bad was detectable. Thus, maintaining a favorable Bcl-2/Bax ratio may account for the trophic action of IL-7.