Background: Transcription factors (TFs) control gene expression by direct binding to regulatory regions of target genes but also by impacting chromatin landscapes and modulating DNA accessibility for other TFs. In recent years several TFs have been defined that control cell fate decisions and effector functions in the immune system. Plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) are an immune cell type with the unique capacity to produce high amounts of type I interferons quickly in response to contact with viral components. Hereby, this cell type is involved in anti-infectious immune responses but also in the development of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. To date, the global TF reservoir in pDCs early after activation remains to be fully characterized.
Results: To fill this gap, we have performed a comprehensive analysis in naïve versus TLR9-activated murine pDCs in a time course study covering early timepoints after stimulation (2 h, 6 h, 12 h) integrating gene expression (RNA-Seq) and chromatin landscape (ATAC-Seq) studies. To unravel the biological processes underlying the changes in TF expression on a global scale gene ontology (GO) analyses were performed. We found that 70% of all genes annotated as TFs in the mouse genome (1014 out of 1636) are expressed in pDCs for at least one stimulation time point and are covering a wide range of TF classes defined by their specific DNA binding mechanisms. GO analysis revealed involvement of TLR9-induced TFs in epigenetic modulation, NFκB and JAK-STAT signaling, and protein production in the endoplasmic reticulum. pDC activation predominantly "turned on" the chromatin regions associated with TF genes. Our in silico analyses pointed at the AP-1 family of TFs as less noticed but possibly important players in these cells after activation. AP-1 family members exhibit (1) increased gene expression, (2) enhanced chromatin accessibility in their promoter region, and (3) a TF DNA binding motif that is globally enriched in genomic regions that were found more accessible in pDCs after TLR9 activation.
Conclusions: In this study we define the complete set of TLR9-regulated TFs in pDCs. Further, this study identifies the AP-1 family of TFs as potentially important but so far less well characterized regulators of pDC function.
Keywords: ATAC-Seq; Gene expression analysis; Next generation sequencing; Plasmacytoid dendritic cells; TLR9; Transcription factors.
© 2021. The Author(s).