IL-7, a member of the common gamma-chain family of cytokines, is essential for B and T lymphocyte development and homeostasis of mature T cell subsets. Thus, naive and memory T cells are both dependent on IL-7 for survival and homeostatic proliferation under lymphopenic conditions. In line with prior findings with IL-2, we show in this study that the biological activity of IL-7 in vivo is greatly increased by association with anti-IL-7 mAb. Under in vivo conditions, IL-7/mAb complexes displayed 50- to 100-fold higher activity than free IL-7 and induced massive expansion of pre-B cells. IL-7/mAb complexes also increased thymopoiesis in normal mice and restored thymopoeisis in IL-7-deficient mice. For mature T cells, IL-7/mAb complexes induced marked homeostatic proliferation of both naive and memory CD4(+) and CD8(+) cell subsets even under normal T cell-replete conditions. Finally, IL-7/mAb complexes were able to enhance the magnitude of the primary response of Ag-specific naive CD8(+) cells. The strong stimulatory activity of IL-7/mAb complexes could be useful for treatment of immunodeficiency and cancer.