Differentiation-dependent functional and epigenetic landscapes for cytokine genes in virus-specific CD8 + T cells

Alice E Denton, Brendan E. Russ, Peter C Doherty, Sudha Rao, Stephen J. Turner

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71 Citations (Scopus)


Although the simultaneous engagement of multiple effector mechanisms is thought to characterize optimal CD8 + T-cell immunity and facilitate pathogen clearance, the differentiation pathways leading to the acquisition and maintenance of such polyfunctional activity are not well understood. Division-dependent profiles of effector molecule expression for virus-specific T cells are analyzed here by using a combination of carboxyfluorescein succinimidyl ester dilution and intracellular cytokine staining subsequent to T-cell receptor ligation. The experiments show that, although the majority of naive CD8 + T-cell precursors are preprogrammed to produce TNF-α soon after stimulation and a proportion make both TNF-α and IL-2, the progressive acquisition of IFN-γ expression depends on continued lymphocyte proliferation. Furthermore, the extensive division characteristic of differentiation to peak effector activity is associated with the progressive dominance of IFN-γ and the concomitant loss of polyfunctional cytokine production, although this is not apparent for long-term CD8 + T-cell memory. Such proliferation-dependent variation in cytokine production appears tied to the epigenetic signatures within the ifnG and tnfA proximal promoters. Specifically, those cytokine gene loci that are rapidly expressed following antigen stimulation at different stages of T-cell differentiation can be shown (by ChIP) to have permissive epigenetic and RNA polymerase II docking signatures. Thus, the dynamic changes in cytokine profiles for naive, effector, and memory T cells are underpinned by specific epigenetic landscapes that regulate responsiveness following T-cell receptor ligation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15306-15311
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number37
Publication statusPublished - 13 Sep 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Cytotoxic T cell
  • Histone
  • Influenza
  • Naive T cell

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