Interleukin 7 and interleukin 4 stimulate human thymocyte growth through distinct mechanisms.
Varma C., Chantry D., Brennan F., Turner M., Katz F., Feldmann M.
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.