• 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.