Interleukin-7 Enhances the in Vivo Anti-tumor Activity of Tumor-reactive CD8+ T cells with Induction of IFN-gamma in a Murine Breast Cancer Model

  • Yuan, Chun-Hui (Department of Laboratory Medicine and Center for Gene Diagnosis, Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University) ;
  • Yang, Xue-Qin (Medical School of Jingchu University of Technology) ;
  • Zhu, Cheng-Liang (Department of Laboratory Medicine, Renmin Hospital of Wuhan University) ;
  • Liu, Shao-Ping (Hubei Key Laboratory of Tumor Biological Behavior & Hubei Cancer Clinical Study Center) ;
  • Wang, Bi-Cheng (Department of Laboratory Medicine and Center for Gene Diagnosis, Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University) ;
  • Wang, Fu-Bing (Department of Laboratory Medicine and Center for Gene Diagnosis, Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University)
  • Published : 2014.01.15


Interleukin-7 (IL-7) is a potent anti-apoptotic cytokine that enhances immune effector cell functions and is essential for lymphocyte survival. While it known to induce differentiation and proliferation in some haematological malignancies, including certain types of leukaemias and lymphomas, little is known about its role in solid tumours, including breast cancer. In the current study, we investigated whether IL-7 could enhance the in vivo antitumor activity of tumor-reactive $CD8^+$ T cells with induction of IFN-${\gamma}$ in a murine breast cancer model. Human IL-7 cDNA was constructed into the eukaryotic expression plasmid pcDNA3.1, and then the recombinational pcDNA3.1-IL-7 was intratumorally injected in the TM40D BALB/C mouse graft model. Serum and intracellular IFN-${\gamma}$ levels were measured by ELISA and flow cytometry, respectively. $CD8^+$ T cell-mediated cytotoxicity was analyzed using the MTT method. Our results showed that IL-7 administration significantly inhibited tumor growth from day 15 after direct intratumoral injection of pcDNA3.1-IL-7. The anti-tumor effect correlated with a marked increase in the level of IFN-${\gamma}$ and breast cancer cells-specific CTL cytotoxicity. In vitro cytotoxicity assays showed that IL-7-treatment could augment cytolytic activity of $CD8^+$ T cells from tumor bearing mice, while anti-IFN-${\gamma}$ blocked the function of $CD8^+$ T cells, suggesting that IFN-${\gamma}$ mediated the cytolytic activity of $CD8^+$ T cells. Furthermore, in vivo neutralization of $CD8^+$ T lymphocytes by CD8 antibodies reversed the antitumor benefit of IL-7. Thus, we demonstrated that IL-7 exerts anti-tumor activity mainly through activating $CD8^+$ T cells and stimulating them to secrete IFN-${\gamma}$ in a murine breast tumor model. Based on these results, our study points to a potential novel way to treat breast cancer and may have important implications for clinical immunotherapy.


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