Human memory CD8 T cell effector potential is epigenetically preserved during in vivo homeostasis

J Exp Med. 2017 Jun 5;214(6):1593-1606. doi: 10.1084/jem.20161760. Epub 2017 May 10.


Antigen-independent homeostasis of memory CD8 T cells is vital for sustaining long-lived T cell-mediated immunity. In this study, we report that maintenance of human memory CD8 T cell effector potential during in vitro and in vivo homeostatic proliferation is coupled to preservation of acquired DNA methylation programs. Whole-genome bisulfite sequencing of primary human naive, short-lived effector memory (TEM), and longer-lived central memory (TCM) and stem cell memory (TSCM) CD8 T cells identified effector molecules with demethylated promoters and poised for expression. Effector-loci demethylation was heritably preserved during IL-7- and IL-15-mediated in vitro cell proliferation. Conversely, cytokine-driven proliferation of TCM and TSCM memory cells resulted in phenotypic conversion into TEM cells and was coupled to increased methylation of the CCR7 and Tcf7 loci. Furthermore, haploidentical donor memory CD8 T cells undergoing in vivo proliferation in lymphodepleted recipients also maintained their effector-associated demethylated status but acquired TEM-associated programs. These data demonstrate that effector-associated epigenetic programs are preserved during cytokine-driven subset interconversion of human memory CD8 T cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adoptive Transfer
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / drug effects
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Cell Differentiation / immunology
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cellular Reprogramming / drug effects
  • Cellular Reprogramming / genetics
  • Cytokines / pharmacology
  • DNA Methylation / drug effects
  • DNA Methylation / genetics
  • Epigenesis, Genetic* / drug effects
  • Genetic Loci
  • Genome, Human
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation
  • Hepatocyte Nuclear Factor 1-alpha / metabolism
  • Homeostasis / drug effects
  • Homeostasis / genetics*
  • Homeostasis / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunocompromised Host
  • Immunologic Memory / drug effects
  • Immunologic Memory / genetics*
  • Lymphocyte Subsets / drug effects
  • Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology
  • Phenotype
  • Receptors, CCR7 / metabolism
  • Tissue Donors


  • CCR7 protein, human
  • Cytokines
  • HNF1A protein, human
  • Hepatocyte Nuclear Factor 1-alpha
  • Receptors, CCR7