Interleukin-7 (IL-7) is the major thymopoietic cytokine. Injections of IL-7 after murine bone marrow transplantation (BMT) correct defects in thymic differentiation, including thymic hypocellularity, abnormal differentiation of CD3- CD4- CD8- (triple-negative [TN]) thymocytes into CD4+ CD8+ (double-positive [DP]) cells, and antigen-specific mature T-lymphocyte proliferation. To determine whether IL-7 production is decreased in BMT recipients, BMT was performed with congenic murine donor-recipient strains and escalating doses of pre-BMT conditioning. Increasing doses of radiation resulted in decreased thymic cellularity and maturation from the TN to the DP stage. Quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction analyses demonstrated that intrathymic production of IL-7 was significantly decreased in irradiated mice than in nonirradiated controls. Decline in IL-7 transcript levels was correlated with the dose of radiation administered. Analyses of the numbers of CD45- major histocompatibility complex class II+ thymic stromal cells suggested that the mechanism for the decreased IL-7 production was loss of IL-7-producing thymic stromal cells. Experiments indicated that pre-BMT conditioning with radiation led to decreased stromal production of IL-7 and consequent blocks in the maturation of thymocytes. They provided a mechanism for both the abnormal thymopoiesis observed after BMT and the previously observed beneficial effects of IL-7 administration in murine models. Impaired production of IL-7 by thymic stroma may be a general model for the clinically observed adverse effects of cytotoxic therapy on thymopoiesis.