The effects of interleukin 7 (IL-7) on the growth and differentiation of murine B cell progenitors has been well characterized using in vitro culture methods. We have investigated the role of IL-7 in vivo using a monoclonal antibody that neutralizes IL-7. We find that treatment of mice with this antibody completely inhibits the development of B cell progenitors from the pro-B cell stage forward. We also provide evidence that all peripheral B cells, including those of the B-1 and conventional lineages, are derived from IL-7-dependent precursors. The results are consistent with the rapid turnover of B cell progenitors in the marrow, but a slow turnover of mature B cells in the periphery. In addition to effects on B cell development, anti-IL-7 treatment substantially reduced thymus cellularity, affecting all major thymic subpopulations.

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