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Nat Immunol. 2003 Jul;4(7):616-23.

An epigenetic view of helper T cell differentiation.

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  • 1Center for Blood Research, Harvard Medical School, 200 Longwood Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


Antigen and cytokine receptor signals act in synergy to direct the differentiation of CD4+ T cells. These signals initiate reciprocal activation and silencing of the interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) and interleukin 4 (IL-4) cytokine gene loci, changes that are heritably maintained in the resulting T helper type 1 (T(H)1) or T(H)2 cells and their progeny. Early, unpolarized transcription and chromatin remodeling of the poised cytokine genes of naive T cells is followed by consolidation and spreading of epigenetic changes and the establishment of self-reinforcing transcription factor networks. Recent studies have begun to elucidate the molecular mechanisms that establish and maintain polarized cytokine gene expression, and thus the cellular identity of differentiated helper T cells.

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