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J Immunol. 2013 Sep 15;191(6):3419-29. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1301395. Epub 2013 Aug 16.

Global DNA methylation remodeling accompanies CD8 T cell effector function.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA.


The differentiation of CD8 T cells in response to acute infection results in the acquisition of hallmark phenotypic effector functions; however, the epigenetic mechanisms that program this differentiation process on a genome-wide scale are largely unknown. In this article, we report the DNA methylomes of Ag-specific naive and day-8 effector CD8 T cells following acute lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus infection. During effector CD8 T cell differentiation, DNA methylation was remodeled such that changes in DNA methylation at gene promoter regions correlated negatively with gene expression. Importantly, differentially methylated regions were enriched at cis-elements, including enhancers active in naive T cells. Differentially methylated regions were associated with cell type-specific transcription factor binding sites, and these transcription factors clustered into modules that define networks targeted by epigenetic regulation and control of effector CD8 T cell function. Changes in the DNA methylation profile following CD8 T cell activation revealed numerous cellular processes, cis-elements, and transcription factor networks targeted by DNA methylation. Together, the results demonstrated that DNA methylation remodeling accompanies the acquisition of the CD8 T cell effector phenotype and repression of the naive cell state. Therefore, these data provide the framework for an epigenetic mechanism that is required for effector CD8 T cell differentiation and adaptive immune responses.

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