IL-7 is essential for homeostatic control of T cell metabolism in vivo.


It has become apparent that T cells require growth signals to maintain function and viability necessary to maintain proper immune homeostasis. One means by which cell extrinsic signals may mediate these effects is by sustaining sufficient basal cell metabolism to prevent cell atrophy. The role of metabolism and the specific growth factors essential to maintain metabolism of mature T cells in vivo, however, are poorly defined. As IL-7 is a nonredundant cytokine required for T cell development and survival and can regulate T cell metabolism in vitro, we hypothesized it may be essential to sustain metabolism of resting T cells in vivo. Thus, we generated a model for conditional expression of IL-7R in mature T cells. After IL-7R deletion in a generally normal lymphoid environment, T cells had reduced responses to IL-7, including abrogated signaling and maintenance of antiapoptotic Bcl-2 family expression that corresponded to decreased survival in vitro. T cell survival in vivo was also reduced after loss of the IL-7R in a T cell-intrinsic manner. Additionally, IL-7R deletion resulted in delayed growth and proliferation following stimulation. Importantly, in vivo excision of IL-7R led to T cell atrophy that was characterized by delayed mitogenesis and reduced glycolytic flux. These data are the first to identify an in vivo requirement for a specific cell extrinsic signal to sustain lymphocyte metabolism and suggest that control of glycolysis by IL-7R may contribute to the well-described roles of IL-7 in T cell development, homeostatic proliferation, and survival.