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J Biol Chem. 2010 Jan 15;285(3):1643-52. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M109.011585. Epub 2009 Nov 13.

Early growth response protein-1 (Egr-1) is preferentially expressed in T helper type 2 (Th2) cells and is involved in acute transcription of the Th2 cytokine interleukin-4.

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Tumor Immunology Program D030, German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), D-69120 Heidelberg, Germany.


The early growth response gene product Egr-1 has been shown to have great impact on growth, proliferation, and differentiation in a wide variety of cells, including T cells. In this study, we show that Egr-1 is rapidly induced upon T cell stimulation and is expressed predominantly in T helper type 2 (Th2) compared with type 1 (Th1) cells. We further investigate the role of Egr-1 in regulation of the Th2 cytokine interleukin-4 (IL-4) expression. IL-4 is a key Th2 cytokine that regulates humoral immunity and also causes allergic inflammation. Regulation of IL-4 gene transcription in Th2 cells has been shown to be controlled by multiple T cell receptor (TCR)-induced transcription factors. However, only a few transcription factors were shown to be selectively induced in differentiated Th2 cells in response to TCR stimulation. Chromatin immunoprecipitation analysis demonstrates that Egr-1 binds to the IL-4 promoter in vivo upon T cell stimulation. Ectopic expression of Egr-1 enhances endogenous IL-4 mRNA expression and elevates IL-4 promoter activity. We also show that Egr-1, nuclear factor of activated T cell, and NF-kappaB cooperatively bind to an NFAT/NF-kappaB-overlapping IL-4 enhancer element and activate the IL-4 promoter synergistically. Furthermore, we show that antisense oligonucleotides that knock down Egr-1 expression attenuate IL-4 transcription. Our study provides the first evidence that Egr-1 protein is differentially expressed in Th1 and Th2 cells and is involved in the acute phase of the IL-4 transcription in response to TCR stimulation.

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