Chromatin priming elements establish immunological memory in T cells without activating transcription: T cell memory is maintained by DNA elements which stably prime inducible genes without activating steady state transcription

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  • University of Birmingham


We have identified a simple epigenetic mechanism underlying the establishment and maintenance of immunological memory in T cells. By studying the transcriptional regulation of inducible genes we found that a single cycle of activation of inducible factors is sufficient to initiate stable binding of pre-existing transcription factors to thousands of newly activated distal regulatory elements within inducible genes. These events lead to the creation of islands of active chromatin encompassing nearby enhancers, thereby supporting the accelerated activation of inducible genes, without changing steady state levels of transcription in memory T cells. These studies also highlighted the need for more sophisticated definitions of gene regulatory elements. The chromatin priming elements defined here are distinct from classical enhancers because they function by maintaining chromatin accessibility rather than directly activating transcription. We propose that these priming elements are members of a wider class of genomic elements that support correct developmentally regulated gene expression.


Original languageEnglish
Article number1600184
Issue number2
Early online date27 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2017