Epigenetic control of T-helper-cell differentiation

Nat Rev Immunol. 2009 Feb;9(2):91-105. doi: 10.1038/nri2487.


Naive CD4(+) T cells give rise to T-helper-cell subsets with functions that are tailored to their respective roles in host defence. The specification of T-helper-cell subsets is controlled by networks of lineage-specifying transcription factors, which bind to regulatory elements in genes that encode cytokines and other transcription factors. The nuclear context in which these transcription factors act is affected by epigenetic processes, which allow programmes of gene expression to be inherited by progeny cells that at the same time retain the potential for change in response to altered environmental signals. In this Review, we describe these epigenetic processes and discuss how they collaborate to govern the fate and function of T helper cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Lineage / genetics
  • Cell Lineage / immunology
  • Chromatin / chemistry
  • Chromatin / physiology
  • DNA Methylation
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lymphopoiesis / genetics*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Helper-Inducer / immunology*
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Chromatin
  • Histones