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J Biol Chem. 2004 Sep 24;279(39):41249-57. Epub 2004 Jul 22.

A distal region in the interferon-gamma gene is a site of epigenetic remodeling and transcriptional regulation by interleukin-2.

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  • 1Lymphocyte and Cell Biology Section, Molecular Immunology and Inflammation Branch, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, National Institutes of Health (NIH), Bethesda, Maryland 20892-1820, USA.


Interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) is a multifunctional cytokine that defines the development of Th1 cells and is critical for host defense against intracellular pathogens. IL-2 is another key immunoregulatory cytokine that is involved in T helper differentiation and is known to induce IFN-gamma expression in natural killer (NK) and T cells. Despite concerted efforts to identify the one or more transcriptional control mechanisms by which IL-2 induces IFN-gamma mRNA expression, no such genomic regulatory regions have been described. We have identified a DNase I hypersensitivity site approximately 3.5-4.0 kb upstream of the transcriptional start site. Using chromatin immunoprecipitation assays we found constitutive histone H3 acetylation in this distal region in primary human NK cells, which is enhanced by IL-2 treatment. This distal region is also preferentially acetylated on histones H3 and H4 in primary Th1 cells as compared with Th2 cells. Within this distal region we found a Stat5-like motif, and in vitro DNA binding assays as well as in vivo chromosomal immunoprecipitation assays showed IL-2-induced binding of both Stat5a and Stat5b to this distal element in the IFNG gene. We examined the function of this Stat5-binding motif by transfecting human peripheral blood mononuclear cells with -3.6 kb of IFNG-luciferase constructs and found that phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate/ionomycin-induced transcription was augmented by IL-2 treatment. The effect of IL-2 was lost when the Stat5 motif was disrupted. These data led us to conclude that this distal region serves as both a target of chromatin remodeling in the IFNG locus as well as an IL-2-induced transcriptional enhancer that binds Stat5 proteins.

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