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One of the major functions of cytokines is their ability to regulate cell growth and differentiation. The complexity of this process has been highlighted by recent studies on murine thymocytes; it has been shown that a number of cytokines interact to regulate thymocyte growth. We have investigated the effects of interleukin 4 (IL-4) and interleukin 7 (IL-7) on human thymocyte proliferation. Although maximal proliferation was dependent upon the presence of the mitogen phytohaemagglutinin (PHA), IL-7 alone stimulated thymocyte growth. In order to determine if this proliferation was due to the induction of IL-2, this pathway was inhibited by the addition of blocking antibody to the IL-2 receptor. Proliferation induced with IL-7 plus PHA, but not that induced by IL-7 alone, could be blocked by this treatment. In contrast, IL-4 stimulated thymocyte proliferation only in the presence of PHA; this proliferation was not inhibited by antibodies to the IL-2 receptor. Our findings show that both IL-7 and IL-4 can act as growth factors for human thymocytes, and that these cytokines stimulate proliferation through distinct mechanisms.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





55 - 59


Cell Division, Humans, In Vitro Techniques, Interleukin-2, Interleukin-4, Interleukin-7, Lymphocyte Activation, Phytohemagglutinins, Receptors, Interleukin-2, T-Lymphocytes, Thymus Gland