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J Immunol. 2002 Mar 15;168(6):2820-7.

Differential patterns of methylation of the IFN-gamma promoter at CpG and non-CpG sites underlie differences in IFN-gamma gene expression between human neonatal and adult CD45RO- T cells.

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  • 1TVW Telethon Institute for Child Health Research and Centre for Child Health Research, University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia, Australia.


IFN-gamma is a potent pleiotropic Th1 cytokine, the production of which is tightly regulated during fetal development. Negative control of fetal/neonatal IFN-gamma production is generally attributed to the Th1-antagonistic effect of mediators produced by the placenta, but evidence exists of additional and more direct transcriptional regulation. We report that neonatal (cord blood) CD3(+)/CD45RO(-) T cells, in particular the CD4(+)/CD45RO(-) subset, are hypermethylated at CpG and non-CpG (CpA and CpT) sites within and adjacent to the IFN-gamma promoter. In contrast, CpG methylation patterns in cord blood IFN-gamma-producing CD8(+)/CD45RO(-) T cells and CD56(+)/CD16(+)/CD3(-) NK cells did not differ significantly from those in their adult counterparts. Consistent with this finding, IFN-gamma production by stimulated naive cord blood CD4(+) T cells is reduced 5- to 10-fold relative to adult CD4(+) T cells, whereas production levels in neonatal and adult CD8(+) T cells are of a similar order. Evidence of significant CpA and CpT methylation was not discovered in promoter sequence from other cytokines (IL-4, TNF-alpha, or IFN-gammaR alpha-chain). We additionally demonstrate that overexpression of DNA methyltransferase 3a in embryonic kidney carcinoma cells is accompanied by CpA methylation of the IFN-gamma promoter.

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