Selective dependence on IL-7 for antigen-specific CD8 T cell responses during airway influenza infection

Interleukin-7 (IL-7) is a cytokine known for its importance in T cell development and survival. How IL-7 shapes CD8 T cell responses during an acute viral infection is less understood. We had previously shown that IL-7 signaling deficient mice have reduced accumulation of influenza-specific CD8 T cells following influenza infection. We sought to determine whether IL-7 affects early CD8 T cell expansion in the mediastinal lymph node and effector function in the lungs. Using IL-7Rα signaling deficient mice, we show that IL-7 is required for a normal sized mediastinal lymph node and the early clonal expansion of influenza-specific CD8 T cells therein. We show that IL-7 plays a cell-intrinsic role in the accumulation of NP366-374 and PA224-233-specific CD8 T cells in the lymph node. We also found that IL-7 shapes terminal differentiation, degranulation and cytokine production to a greater extent in PA224-233-specific than NP366-374-specific CD8 T cells. We further demonstrate that IL-7 is induced in the lung tissue by viral infection and we characterize multiple cellular sources that contribute to IL-7 production. Our findings on IL-7 and its effects on lower respiratory diseases will be important for expanding the utility of therapeutics that are currently available.