Increased availability of homeostatic cytokines is considered a major mechanism by which lymphodepletion enhances the efficacy of adoptive T cell therapy (ACT). IL-7 is one such cytokine capable of augmenting the function of tumor-reactive CD8+ T cells. However, whether host-derived IL-7 plays a role in driving the proper function of CD4+ T cells in an ACT setting remains unclear. Here we report that lymphodepleting chemotherapy by cyclophosphamide (CTX) does not lead to increased availability of the endogenous IL-7 in mice. Despite of a paucity of IL-7 in the immune milieu, CTX preconditioning allowed adoptively transferred naïve tumor-specific CD4+ T cells to undergo effector differentiation and regain IL-7Rα expression, giving rise to IL-7-responsive polyfunctional CD4+ effector cells. Correspondingly, supplementation of exogenous recombinant IL-7 markedly amplified and sustained polyfunctional CD4+ effector cells, resulting in improved therapeutic outcome in a mouse lymphoma model. We further demonstrated that the immune-enhancing effects of IL-7 were also applicable to donor CD4+ T cells pre-activated under Th1 polarizing condition. These findings suggest caution in relying on the endogenous IL-7 to enhance donor T cell expansion and persistence after lymphodepleting chemotherapy, and highlight the usefulness of recombinant IL-7 as an adjuvant for adoptive immunotherapy.
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