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Adv Immunol. 2007;96:41-101.

Regulation of interferon-gamma during innate and adaptive immune responses.

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Molecular and Cellular Biology Graduate Program, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA.


Interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) is crucial for immunity against intracellular pathogens and for tumor control. However, aberrant IFN-gamma expression has been associated with a number of autoinflammatory and autoimmune diseases. This cytokine is produced predominantly by natural killer (NK) and natural killer T (NKT) cells as part of the innate immune response, and by Th1 CD4 and CD8 cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) effector T cells once antigen-specific immunity develops. Herein, we briefly review the functions of IFN-gamma, the cells that produce it, the cell extrinsic signals that induce its production and influence the differentiation of naïve T cells into IFN-gamma-producing effector T cells, and the signaling pathways and transcription factors that facilitate, induce, or repress production of this cytokine. We then review and discuss recent insights regarding the molecular regulation of IFN-gamma, focusing on work that has led to the identification and characterization of distal regulatory elements and epigenetic modifications with the IFN-gamma locus (Ifng) that govern its expression. The epigenetic modifications and three-dimensional structure of the Ifng locus in naive CD4 T cells, and the modifications they undergo as these cells differentiate into effector T cells, suggest a model whereby the chromatin architecture of Ifng is poised to facilitate either rapid opening or silencing during Th1 or Th2 differentiation, respectively.

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