Author: Prof. Dr. med. Peter Altmeyer

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Last updated on: 29.10.2020

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B cell precursor growth-promoting activity; IL-7; lymphopoietin 1 (LP 1); Lymphopoietin (LPo); Pre-B cell growth factor (PBGF); Thymocyte growth factor (THGF)

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Interleukin-7 is a pro-inflammatory regulatory protein secreted by bone marrow stromal cells, thymus cells, keratinocytes, fibroblasts and endothelial cells. The gene encoding interleukin-7 is located on chromosome 8.

General information
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The effect of interleukin-6 is mediated by membrane-bound receptors. 2 receptor types are known: receptor type 1 (CD127) is expressed mainly on activated T-lymphocytes. Receptor type 2 is expressed on non-stimulated T-lymphocytes. Besides the membrane-bound receptors, a soluble receptor (sILR-7) circulating in the blood plasma was found, which probably regulates the biological activity of interleukin-7 in the sense of a feedback mechanism.

Receptors for interleukin-7 are also found on macrophages, on pre-B lymphocytes and their precursors, but not on mature B lymphocytes. The IL-7 signalling pathways involve the phosphatidyl inositol-3-kinase (PI3K) signalling cascade, the Ras/Raf signalling cascade and the Januskinase/STAT signalling cascade.

In activated T lymphocytes, the formation of interleukin-3 and GMCSF is stimulated. In monocytes, Il-7 mediates the formation of inflammatory mediators such as interleukin-1, interleukin-6 and the "macrophage inflammatory protein". With regard to the influence of interleukin-7 on osteoclastogenesis, both inhibitory and activating influences have been demonstrated.

The cytokine can control the proliferation of malignant processes by influencing the "microenvironment" of a tumour and its immune system. The role of interleukin-7 and 15 has been studied extensively in hematological tumors. The cytokine was found elevated in lymphomas and leukemias. Furthermore, interleukin-7 is produced by various solid tumors, but the influence of the cytokine on tumor cell proliferation is unclear. Elevated interleukin-7 is associated with a poor prognosis in breast cancer. Elevated levels of interleukin-7 and interleukin-15 have been shown to occur in the early stages of prostate cancer. Other malignant tumors are associated with variously elevated interleukin-7 levels: renal carcinoma, neuroblastoma, glioma, colorectal carcinoma, bronchial carcinoma, etc. Inhibition of the interleukin-7 receptor blocks B- and T-cell development.

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Elevated levels of interleukin-7 are found in acute "graft-versus-host disease" and can be seen as an indicative factor for early therapy.

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  1. Dean RM et al(2008) Association of serum interleukin-7 levels with the development of acute graft-versus-host disease. J Clin Oncol 26:5735-5741.
  2. Fleming HE et al.(2001) Pre-B cell receptor signaling mediates selective response to IL-7 at the pro-B to pre-B cell transition via an ERK/MAP kinase-dependent pathway. Immunity 15: 521-531.
  3. Lin JX et al.,(1995) The role of shared receptor motifs and common stat proteins in the generation of cytokines pleiotropy and redundancy by IL-2, IL-4, IL-7, IL-13, and IL-15, Immunity 2:331-339.
  4. Peschon JJ et al (1994) Early lymphocyte expansion is severely impaired in interleukin 7 receptor-deficient mice. J Exp Med 180:1955-1960.
  5. by Freeden-Jeffry U et al. (1995) Lymphopenia in interleukin (IL)-7 gene-deleted mice identifies IL-7 as a nonredundant cytokine. J Exp Med 181:1519-1526.
  6. Venkitaraman AR et al(21994) Interleukin-7 induces the association of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase with the alpha chain of the interleukin-7 receptor. Eur J Immunol 24:2168-2174.
  7. Zarogoulidis P et al (2014) Interleukin-7 and Interleukin-15 for Cancer. J Cancer 5: 765-773.

Outgoing links (1)

Graft-versus-host disease;


Last updated on: 29.10.2020