• Commensal microflora;
  • IFN-γ;
  • IL-7;
  • Intestinal epithelial cells


IL-7 is a major regulator of lymphocyte homeostasis; however, little is known about the mechanisms that regulate IL-7 production. To study Il7 gene regulation in vivo, we generated a novel IL-7-reporter mouse, which allows the non-invasive quantification of Il7 gene activity in live mice and, additionally, the simultaneous activation/inactivation of target genes in IL-7-producing cells. With these IL-7-reporter mice, we identify thymus, skin and intestine as major sources of IL-7 in vivo. Importantly, we show that IFN-γ and the commensal microflora promote steady-state IL-7 production in the intestine. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the blockade of IFN-γ signaling in intestinal epithelial cells strongly reduces their IFN-γ-driven IL-7 production. In summary, our data suggest a feedback loop in which commensal bacteria drive IFN-γ production by lymphocytes, which in turn promotes epithelial cell IL-7 production and the survival of IL-7-dependent lymphocytes.