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J Immunol. 2007 Aug 15;179(4):2389-96.

IL-10 is excluded from the functional cytokine memory of human CD4+ memory T lymphocytes.

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Clinical Immunology Group, Deutsches Rheuma-Forschungszentrum Berlin, Berlin, Germany.


Epigenetic modifications, including DNA methylation, profoundly influence gene expression of CD4(+) Th-specific cells thereby shaping memory Th cell function. We demonstrate here a correlation between a lacking fixed potential of human memory Th cells to re-express the immunoregulatory cytokine gene IL10 and its DNA methylation status. Memory Th cells secreting IL-10 or IFN-gamma were directly isolated ex vivo from peripheral blood of healthy volunteers, and the DNA methylation status of IL10 and IFNG was assessed. Limited difference in methylation was found for the IL10 gene locus in IL-10-secreting Th cells, as compared with Th cells not secreting IL-10 isolated directly ex vivo or from in vitro-established human Th1 and Th2 clones. In contrast, in IFN-gamma(+) memory Th cells the promoter of the IFNG gene was hypomethylated, as compared with IFN-gamma-nonsecreting memory Th cells. In accordance with the lack of epigenetic memory, almost 90% of ex vivo-isolated IL-10-secreting Th cells lacked a functional memory for IL-10 re-expression after restimulation. Our data indicate that IL10 does not become epigenetically marked in human memory Th cells unlike effector cytokine genes such as IFNG. The exclusion of IL-10, but not effector cytokines, from the functional memory of human CD4(+) T lymphocytes ex vivo may reflect the need for appropriate regulation of IL-10 secretion, due to its potent immunoregulatory potential.

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