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J Interferon Cytokine Res. 2016 Jul;36(7):470-5. doi: 10.1089/jir.2015.0179.

Chromatin Landscape of the IRF Genes and Role of the Epigenetic Reader BRD4.

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Division of Developmental Biology, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health , Bethesda, Maryland.


Histone post-translational modification patterns represent epigenetic states of genomic genes and denote the state of their transcription, past history, and future potential in gene expression. Genome-wide chromatin modification patterns reported from various laboratories are assembled in the ENCODE database, providing a fertile ground for understanding epigenetic regulation of any genes of interest across many cell types. The IRF family genes critically control innate immunity as they direct expression and activities of interferons. While these genes have similar structural and functional traits, their chromatin landscapes and epigenetic features have not been systematically evaluated. Here, by mining ENCODE database using an imputational approach, we summarize chromatin modification patterns for 6 of 9 IRF genes and show characteristic features that connote their epigenetic states. BRD4 is a BET bromodomain protein that "reads and translates" epigenetic marks into transcription. We review recent findings that BRD4 controls constitutive and signal-dependent transcription of many genes, including IRF genes. BRD4 dynamically binds to various genomic genes with a spatial and temporal specificity. Of particular importance, BRD4 is shown to critically regulate IRF-dependent anti-pathogen protection, inflammatory responses triggered by NF-κB, and the growth and spread of many cancers. The advent of small molecule inhibitors that disrupt binding of BET bromdomain to acetylated histone marks has opened new therapeutic possibilities for cancer and inflammatory diseases.

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