We previously reported that culture of murine fetal liver (FL) cells with interleukin 7 (IL-7) results in expression of high levels of T cell receptor (TCR) gamma transcripts by a population of cells expressing Thy-1 and Pgp-1, suggesting that IL-7 promotes the growth and/or differentiation of pre-T cells. We demonstrate herein that culture of FL cells for 7 d with IL-7 caused the rearrangement and expression of TCR gamma variable (V) region genes V gamma 4 and V gamma 6, but not V gamma 5 or V gamma 7. Since this effect was not blocked by hydroxyurea, it appeared to represent induction of expression of these genes by IL-7 rather than expansion of a preexisting positive population. We also show that IL-7 induced RAG-1 and RAG-2 mRNA expression by FL cells. These data provide evidence that specific TCR gamma/delta V region genes can be rearranged and expressed by T lineage cells before their migration to the thymus, in response to IL-7.

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