• Development of a unique epigenetic signature during in vivo Th17 differentiation.

      Yang, Bi-Huei; Floess, Stefan; Hagemann, Stefanie; Deyneko, Igor V; Groebe, Lothar; Pezoldt, Joern; Sparwasser, Tim; Lochner, Matthias; Huehn, Jochen; Helmholtz Centre for infection research, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2015-02-18)
      Activated naive CD4(+) T cells are highly plastic cells that can differentiate into various T helper (Th) cell fates characterized by the expression of effector cytokines like IFN-γ (Th1), IL-4 (Th2) or IL-17A (Th17). Although previous studies have demonstrated that epigenetic mechanisms including DNA demethylation can stabilize effector cytokine expression, a comprehensive analysis of the changes in the DNA methylation pattern during differentiation of naive T cells into Th cell subsets is lacking. Hence, we here performed a genome-wide methylome analysis of ex vivo isolated naive CD4(+) T cells, Th1 and Th17 cells. We could demonstrate that naive CD4(+) T cells share more demethylated regions with Th17 cells when compared to Th1 cells, and that overall Th17 cells display the highest number of demethylated regions, findings which are in line with the previously reported plasticity of Th17 cells. We could identify seven regions located in Il17a, Zfp362, Ccr6, Acsbg1, Dpp4, Rora and Dclk1 showing pronounced demethylation selectively in ex vivo isolated Th17 cells when compared to other ex vivo isolated Th cell subsets and in vitro generated Th17 cells, suggesting that this unique epigenetic signature allows identifying and functionally characterizing in vivo generated Th17 cells.
    • Epigenetic modification of the human CCR6 gene is associated with stable CCR6 expression in T cells.

      Steinfelder, Svenja; Floess, Stefan; Engelbert, Dirk; Haeringer, Barbara; Baron, Udo; Rivino, Laura; Steckel, Bodo; Gruetzkau, Andreas; Olek, Sven; Geginat, Jens; et al. (2011-03-10)
      CCR6 is a chemokine receptor expressed on Th17 cells and regulatory T cells that is induced by T-cell priming with certain cytokines, but how its expression and stability are regulated at the molecular level is largely unknown. Here, we identified and characterized a noncoding region of the human CCR6 locus that displayed unmethylated CpG motifs (differentially methylated region [DMR]) selectively in CCR6(+) lymphocytes. CCR6 expression on circulating CD4(+) T cells was stable on cytokine-induced proliferation but partially down-regulated on T-cell receptor stimulation. However, CCR6 down-regulation was mostly transient, and the DMR within the CCR6 locus remained demethylated. Notably, in vitro induction of CCR6 expression with cytokines in T-cell receptor-activated naive CD4(+) T cells was not associated with a demethylated DMR and resulted in unstable CCR6 expression. Conversely, treatment with the DNA methylation inhibitor 5'-azacytidine induced demethylation of the DMR and led to increased and stable CCR6 expression. Finally, when cloned into a reporter gene plasmid, the DMR displayed transcriptional activity in memory T cells that was suppressed by DNA methylation. In summary, we have identified a noncoding region of the human CCR6 gene with methylation-sensitive transcriptional activity in CCR6(+) T cells that controls stable CCR6 expression via epigenetic mechanisms.
    • Inhibition of the JAK/STAT Signaling Pathway in Regulatory T Cells Reveals a Very Dynamic Regulation of Foxp3 Expression.

      Goldstein, Jérémie D; Burlion, Aude; Zaragoza, Bruno; Sendeyo, Kélhia; Polansky, Julia K; Huehn, Jochen; Piaggio, Eliane; Salomon, Benoit L; Marodon, Gilles; Helmholtz Centre for infection research, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2016)
      The IL-2/JAK3/STAT-5 signaling pathway is involved on the initiation and maintenance of the transcription factor Foxp3 in regulatory T cells (Treg) and has been associated with demethylation of the intronic Conserved Non Coding Sequence-2 (CNS2). However, the role of the JAK/STAT pathway in controlling Foxp3 in the short term has been poorly investigated. Using two different JAK/STAT pharmacological inhibitors, we observed a detectable loss of Foxp3 after 10 min. of treatment that affected 70% of the cells after one hour. Using cycloheximide, a general inhibitor of mRNA translation, we determined that Foxp3, but not CD25, has a high turnover in IL-2 stimulated Treg. This reduction was correlated with a rapid reduction of Foxp3 mRNA. This loss of Foxp3 was associated with a loss in STAT-5 binding to the CNS2, which however remains demethylated. Consequently, Foxp3 expression returns to normal level upon restoration of basal JAK/STAT signaling in vivo. Reduced expression of several genes defining Treg identity was also observed upon treatment. Thus, our results demonstrate that Foxp3 has a rapid turn over in Treg partly controlled at the transcriptional level by the JAK/STAT pathway.
    • The Treg-specific demethylated region stabilizes Foxp3 expression independently of NF-κB signaling.

      Schreiber, Lisa; Pietzsch, Beate; Floess, Stefan; Farah, Carla; Jänsch, Lothar; Schmitz, Ingo; Huehn, Jochen; Department Experimental Immunology, Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, Braunschweig, Germany. (2014)
      Regulatory T cells (Tregs) obtain immunosuppressive capacity by the upregulation of forkhead box protein 3 (Foxp3), and persistent expression of this transcription factor is required to maintain their immune regulatory function and ensure immune homeostasis. Stable Foxp3 expression is achieved through epigenetic modification of the Treg-specific demethylated region (TSDR), an evolutionarily conserved non-coding element within the Foxp3 gene locus. Here, we present molecular data suggesting that TSDR enhancer activity is restricted to T cells and cannot be induced in other immune cells such as macrophages or B cells. Since NF-κB signaling has been reported to be instrumental to induce Foxp3 expression during Treg development, we analyzed how NF-κB factors are involved in the molecular regulation of the TSDR. Unexpectedly, we neither observed transcriptional activity of a previously postulated NF-κB binding site within the TSDR nor did the entire TSDR show any transcriptional responsiveness to NF-κB activation at all. Finally, the NF-κB subunit c-Rel revealed to be dispensable for epigenetic imprinting of sustained Foxp3 expression by TSDR demethylation. In conclusion, we show that NF-κB signaling is not substantially involved in TSDR-mediated stabilization of Foxp3 expression in Tregs.