Specific overexpression of IL-7 in the intestinal mucosa: The role in intestinal intraepithelial lymphocyte development

Hua Yang, Blair Madison, Deborah L. Gumucio, Daniel H. Teitelbaum

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15 Scopus citations


IL-7 plays a crucial role in controlling T cell development and homeostasis. Since IL-7 may be derived from extraintestinal sources, and exogenous IL-7 broadly affects lymphoid populations, the actions of epithelial cell (EC)-derived IL-7 are not fully understood. The effect of intestinal specific expression of IL-7 on intestinal mucosal lymphocytes was investigated by using an IL-7 transgenic mouse model. We generated an intestinal EC-specific overexpressing IL-7 transgenic mouse model (IL-7vill) and compared their phenotype and function to wild-type C57BL/6J mice. EC-derived IL-7 overexpression was found to be exclusively in the small and large intestine. Numbers and subtypes of mucosal lymphocytes, including intraepithelial lymphocytes (IEL) and lamina propria lymphocytes (LPL), significantly changed in IL-7vill mice. From a functional standpoint, IEL proliferation also significantly increased in IL-7vill mice. IEL cytokine expression significantly changed in both T cell receptor (TCR)-αβ+ and TCR-γδ+ IEL subpopulations, including a significant increase in IFN-γ and TNF-α as well as an increase in keratinocyte growth factor expression. EC expression of CD103 (integrin α Eβ7), the ligand of E-cadherin, markedly upregulated and may account for a mechanism of the massive expansion of IEL in transgenic mice. Systemic lymphoid populations did not change in transgenic mice. IL-7 overexpression by intestinal EC significantly affected IEL phenotype and function. These results offer insight into the role of IL-7 in IEL development and suggest a critical role of EC-derived expression of IL-7 in the phenotype and function of IEL.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)G1421-G1430
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2008


  • Epithelial cells
  • Interleukin-7
  • Mouse
  • Transgenic


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