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J Immunol. 2002 Aug 15;169(4):1893-903.

DNA methylation changes at human Th2 cytokine genes coincide with DNase I hypersensitive site formation during CD4(+) T cell differentiation.

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  • 1Department of Respiratory Medicine and Allergy, King's College, London, United Kingdom.


The differentiation of naive CD4(+) T lymphocytes into Th1 and Th2 lineages generates either cellular or humoral immune responses. Th2 cells express the cytokines IL-4, -5, and -13, which are implicated in asthma and atopy. Much has been published about the regulation of murine Th2 cytokine expression, but studies in human primary T cells are less common. We have developed a method for differentiating human CD45RA(+) (naive) T cells into Th1 and Th2 populations that display distinct cytokine expression profiles. We examined both CpG methylation, using bisulfite DNA modification and sequencing, and chromatin structure around the IL-4 and IL-13 genes before and after human T cell differentiation and in normal human skin fibroblasts. In naive cells, the DNA was predominantly methylated. After Th2 differentiation, DNase I hypersensitive sites (DHS) appeared at IL-4 and IL-13 and CpG demethylation occurred only around the Th2-specific DHS. Both DHS and CpG demethylation coincided with consensus binding sites for the Th2-specific transcription factor GATA-3. Although fibroblasts, like naive and Th1 cells, did not express IL-4 or IL-13, DHS and unmethylated CpG sites that were distinct from the Th2-specific sites were observed, suggesting that chromatin structure in this cluster not only varies in T cells according to IL-4/IL-13 expression but is also tissue specific.

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