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Research Article

Impairment of  T and B Cell Development by Treatment with a Type I Interferon


Type I interferons α and β, naturally produced regulators of cell growth and differentiation, have been shown to inhibit IL-7–induced growth and survival of B cell precursors in vitro. After confirming an inhibitory effect on B lymphopoiesis in an ex vivo assay, we treated newborn mice with an active IFN-α2/α1 hybrid molecule to assess its potential for regulating B and T cell development in vivo. Bone marrow and splenic cellularity was greatly reduced in the IFN-α2/α1–treated mice, and B lineage cells were reduced by >80%. The bone marrow progenitor population of CD43+B220+HSA− cells was unaffected, but development of the CD19+ pro–B cells and their B lineage progeny was severely impaired. Correspondingly, IL-7–responsive cells in the bone marrow were virtually eliminated by the interferon treatment. Thymus cellularity was also reduced by >80% in the treated mice. Phenotypic analysis of the residual thymocytes indicated that the inhibitory effect was exerted during the pro–T cell stage in differentiation. In IFN-α/β receptor−/− mice, T and B cell development were unaffected by the IFN-α2/α1 treatment. The data suggest that type I interferons can reversibly inhibit early T and B cell development by opposing the essential IL-7 response.