Significant efforts are now focused on determining the mechanism(s) that mediate the progressive changes in phenotype and
function of antigen-specific T cells as they develop in response to both acute and chronic pathogens. Here we review our current understanding of transcriptional regulatory mechanisms of genes directly related to effector and memory functions and highlight potential mechanisms for the generation of phenotypically distinct memory T-cell subsets. It is believed that memory T cell heterogeneity has evolved as a mechanism for partitioning memory-associated functions into specialized cells to protect against a range of pathogens and routes of exposure. Memory CD8 T cells BMS-907351 manufacturer Afatinib supplier that populate non-lymphoid tissues and provide immediate recall of effector functions are loosely categorized as effector-memory (Tem) cells. Tem cells maintain down-regulation of the molecules CD62L and CCR7 and serve as the first line of defence against pathogen re-exposure. In contrast, memory CD8 T cells that express CD62L and CCR7 and preferentially home to lymphoid tissues are referred to as central-memory cells (Tcm). The preferential lymphoid homing of Tcm cells is believed to facilitate their encounter with antigen-presenting dendritic cells, thereby generating a self-renewing source of cells with effector functions, which can then migrate to the site of infection.[14-17] Importantly,
many of the differentially acquired traits of Tem versus Tcm cells, including CD62L- and CCR7-mediated lymphoid homing, are the result of differential transcriptional regulation of gene products from the ‘on-off-on’ subset of genes (Fig. 1b). A current challenge for the field is to determine how acquired transcriptional programmes, those common among all memory cells as well as the transcriptional programmes that are unique to memory subsets, are maintained during cell Adenosine division of memory T cells. Drawing upon insights from other developmental systems, epigenetic modifications may provide a transcriptional regulatory mechanism that can be propagated
during homeostatic cell division of memory cells.[18, 19] Recently several laboratories have demonstrated that epigenetic modifications, namely histone modifications and DNA methylation, modulate transcriptional activation of effector molecules via the restriction of access to chromatin by transcription factors and polymerase. Our current understanding of epigenetic regulation of memory cell function has come from studies that have focused on the mechanisms controlling expression of effector molecules such as the genes for interferon-γ (IFNg), interleukin 2 (IL-2) granzyme b and perforin.[20-25] As these genes become transcriptionally up-regulated, the proximal promoter region loses repressive epigenetic marks (DNA and histone modifications).