Synergistic and combinatorial control of T cell activation and differentiation by transcription factors

Curr Opin Immunol. 2010 Jun;22(3):286-92. doi: 10.1016/j.coi.2010.03.006.


Naïve CD4(+) T cells are educated in the thymus to survey the periphery for cognate antigen while ignoring self or commensal antigens. T cell antigen receptor (TCR) cross-linking initiates signaling cascades that integrate information from co-stimulatory receptors and locally available cytokines to chart the course of inflammation. The dynamic composition of transcription factors acting within a given T cell drive clonal expansion and specify differentiation into a growing array of effector and regulatory T cell subsets. The classical gamma-interferon (IFNgamma)-secreting T helper type (Th)-1 and IL-4-producing Th2 cell subsets utilize T-bet or GATA3 as master lineage regulators. It is now understood that naïve T cells also differentiate into pro-inflammatory Th17 or tissue-protective inducible T regulatory (iTreg) cells under the respective guidance of RORgammat or FOXP3. Emerging data highlight the reoccurring theme that these Th17 and iTreg master regulators prescribe T cell lineage commitment through interactions with each other, as well as with a broader network of auxiliary transcription factors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation*
  • Cell Lineage
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Humans
  • Lymphocyte Activation*
  • Mice
  • Signal Transduction
  • T-Lymphocytes / cytology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*


  • Transcription Factors