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J Exp Med. 2009 Jan 16;206(1):51-9. doi: 10.1084/jem.20081242. Epub 2009 Jan 12.

Runx3 and T-box proteins cooperate to establish the transcriptional program of effector CTLs.

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Harvard Medical School and the Immune Disease Institute, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Activation of naive CD8(+) T cells with antigen induces their differentiation into effector cytolytic T lymphocytes (CTLs). CTLs lyse infected or aberrant target cells by exocytosis of lytic granules containing the pore-forming protein perforin and a family of proteases termed granzymes. We show that effector CTL differentiation occurs in two sequential phases in vitro, characterized by early induction of T-bet and late induction of Eomesodermin (Eomes), T-box transcription factors that regulate the early and late phases of interferon (IFN) gamma expression, respectively. In addition, we demonstrate a critical role for the transcription factor Runx3 in CTL differentiation. Runx3 regulates Eomes expression as well as expression of three cardinal markers of the effector CTL program: IFN-gamma, perforin, and granzyme B. Our data point to the existence of an elaborate transcriptional network in which Runx3 initially induces and then cooperates with T-box transcription factors to regulate gene transcription in differentiating CTLs.

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