Fibroblastic reticular cells in lymph nodes regulate the homeostasis of naive T cells.
Interleukin 7 is essential for the survival of naive T lymphocytes. Despite its importance, its cellular source in the periphery remains poorly defined. Here we report a critical function for lymph node access in T cell homeostasis and identify T zone fibroblastic reticular cells in these organs as the main source of interleukin 7. In vitro, T zone fibroblastic reticular cells were able to prevent the death of naive T lymphocytes but not of B lymphocytes by secreting interleukin 7 and the CCR7 ligand CCL19. Using gene-targeted mice, we demonstrate a nonredundant function for CCL19 in T cell homeostasis. Our data suggest that lymph nodes and T zone fibroblastic reticular cells have a key function in naive CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cell homeostasis by providing a limited reservoir of survival factors.