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J Biol Chem. 2005 Aug 5;280(31):28177-85. Epub 2005 Jun 7.

A critical control element for interleukin-4 memory expression in T helper lymphocytes.

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  • 1Deutsches Rheuma-Forschungszentrum, Berlin 10117, Germany.


Naive T helper (Th) lymphocytes are induced to express the il4 (interleukin-4) gene by simultaneous signaling through the T cell receptor and the interleukin (IL)-4 receptor. Upon restimulation with antigen, such preactivated Th lymphocytes can reexpress the il4 gene independent of IL-4 receptor signaling. This memory for expression of the il4 gene depends on epigenetic modification of the il4 gene locus and an increased expression of GATA-3, the key transcription factor for Th2 differentiation. Here, we have identified a phylogenetically conserved sequence, the conserved intronic regulatory element, in the first intron of the il4 gene containing a tandem GATA-3 binding site. We show that GATA-3 binds to this sequence in a position- and orientation-dependent manner, in vitro and in vivo. DNA demethylation and histone acetylation of this region occurs early and selectively in differentiating, IL-4-secreting Th2 lymphocytes. Deletion of the conserved element by replacement of the first exon and part of the first intron of the il4 gene with gfp leads to a defect in the establishment of memory for expression of IL-4, in that reexpression of IL-4 still requires costimulation by exogenous IL-4. The conserved intronic regulatory element thus links the initial epigenetic modification of the il4 gene to GATA-3 and serves as a genetic control element for memory expression of IL-4.

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