T helper cell differentiation: regulation by cis elements and epigenetics

Immunity. 2006 Apr;24(4):369-79. doi: 10.1016/j.immuni.2006.03.007.


Cytokine loci undergo changes in chromatin structure when naive CD4(+) T cells differentiate into Th1 or Th2 cells and have also been examined for regulatory sequences underlying such changes and their functional correlates. Studies have shown that distal regulatory elements control the Ifng and Th2 cytokine loci and are primary targets for tissue-specific transcription factors, serving as centers for epigenetic changes that mark heritable traits in effector cells. Reports of intra- and, remarkably, interchromosomal interactions between these regulatory elements shed light on the mechanisms by which they regulate gene expression, revealing an extraordinary new picture that conceptually extends our views on how genes are regulated from two to three dimensions. Here, we summarize these recent findings on the role of regulatory elements and their mechanisms of action, which are of broad significance for gene regulation, not only of the immune system but also of many, if not all, coregulated genes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics*
  • Cell Differentiation / immunology*
  • Cytokines / genetics
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Gene Expression / immunology
  • Glycosyltransferases / genetics
  • Glycosyltransferases / immunology
  • Humans
  • Regulatory Elements, Transcriptional*
  • Th2 Cells / cytology*
  • Th2 Cells / physiology


  • Cytokines
  • Glycosyltransferases
  • LFNG protein, human