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J Exp Med. 1999 Nov 15;190(10):1439-50.

Instruction for cytokine expression in T helper lymphocytes in relation to proliferation and cell cycle progression.

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Deutsches Rheuma-Forschungszentrum Berlin, 10115 Berlin, Germany.


T helper (Th) lymphocytes, when reactivated, recall expression of those cytokines they had been instructed to express in earlier activations, even in the absence of specific cytokine-inducing factors. In cells that memorize their expression, the cytokine genes are modified by chromatin rearrangement and demethylation, suggesting that they have been somatically imprinted. Here we show, by using inhibitors blocking the cell cycle in various stages, that for the instruction of a Th cell to express interleukin (IL)-4 or IL-10 upon restimulation, entry of the cell into the S phase of the first cell cycle after initial activation is required. Separation of the IL-4 receptor (IL-4R) and T cell antigen receptor (TCR) signals in time, demonstrates that this instruction is dependent on concomitant signaling from both receptors. In Th cells, inhibited to progress into the first S phase after activation, the IL-4R and TCR signals can be memorized for at least 1 d, priming the T cell to become instructed for expression of IL-4 upon restimulation, when entering the S phase after release of the cell cycle block. The requirement of the initial S phase of T cell activation, for instruction of Th cells to express IL-4 or IL-10 upon restimulation points to the decisive role of epigenetic modification of cytokine genes as a molecular correlate of the memory to express particular cytokines.

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