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Cell. 1996 Jun 28;85(7):973-83.

The proto-oncogene c-maf is responsible for tissue-specific expression of interleukin-4.

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Department of Cancer Biology, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


The molecular basis for the distinctive cytokine expression of CD4+ T helper 1 (Th1) and T helper 2 (Th2) subsets remains elusive. Here, we report that the proto-oncogene c-maf, a basic region/leucine zipper transcription factor, controls tissue-specific expression of IL-4. c-Maf is expressed in Th2 but not Th1 clones and is induced during normal precursor cell differentiation along a Th2 but not Th1 lineage. c-Maf binds to a c-Maf response element (MARE) in the proximal IL-4 promoter adjacent to a site footprinted by extracts from Th2 but not Th1 clones. Ectopic expression of c-Maf transactivates the IL-4 promoter in Th1 cells, B cells, and nonlymphoid cells, a function that maps to the MARE and Th2-specific footprint. Furthermore, c-Maf acts in synergy with the nuclear factor of activated T cells (NF-ATp) to initiate endogeneous IL-4 production by B cells. Manipulation of c-Maf may alter Th subset ratios in human disease.

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