The IL-7/IL-7R-dependent signaling pathway plays a crucial role in regulating the immune response in intestinal mucosa. Here we demonstrate the pivotal role of this pathway in the development and treatment of chronic colitis. T cells expressing high levels of IL-7R were substantially infiltrated in the chronic inflamed mucosa of TCR α-chain knockout mice and IL-7 transgenic mice. Transfer of mucosai T cells expressing high levels of IL-7R, but not T cells expressing low levels of IL-7R, from these mice into recombinase-activating gene-2-/- mice induced chronic colitis. Selective elimination of T cells expressing high levels of IL-7R by administrating small amounts of toxin-conjugated anti-IL-7R Ab completely ameliorated established, ongoing colitis. These findings provide evidence that therapeutic approaches targeting mucosal T cells expressing high levels of IL-7R are effective in the treatment of chronic intestinal inflammation and may be feasible for use in the therapy of human inflammatory bowel disease.
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