Immunological memory is a defining feature of vertebrate physiology, allowing rapid responses to repeat infections. However, the molecular mechanisms required for its establishment and maintenance remain poorly understood. Here we demonstrated that the first steps in the acquisition of T cell memory occurred during the initial activation phase of naïve T cells by an antigenic stimulus. This event initiated extensive chromatin remodeling that reprogramed immune response genes towards a stably maintained primed state, prior to terminal differentiation. Activation induced the transcription factors NFAT and AP-1 which created thousands of new DNase I hypersensitive sites (DHSs), enabling ETS-1 and RUNX1 recruitment to previously inaccessible sites. Significantly, these DHSs remained stable long after activation ceased, were preserved following replication, and were maintained in memory-phenotype cells. We show that primed DHSs maintain regions of active chromatin in the vicinity of inducible genes and enhancers that regulate immune responses. We suggest that this priming mechanism may contribute to immunological memory in T cells by facilitating the induction of nearby inducible regulatory elements in previously activated T cells.
- gene regulation
- memory T cell