Williams CL, Schilling MM, Cho SH, Lee K, Wei M, Aditi , Boothby M
CD4(+) T cells developing toward a Th2 fate express IL-4, IL-5, and IL-13 while inhibiting production of cytokines associated with other Th types, such as the Th1 cytokine IFN- γ. IL-4-producing Th2 effector cells give rise to a long-lived memory population committed to reactivation of the Th2 cytokine gene expression program. However, reactivation of these effector-derived cells under Th1-skewing conditions leads to production of IFN-γ along with IL-4 in the same cell. We now show that this flexibility ("plasticity") of cytokine expression is preceded by a loss of the repressive DNA methylation of the Ifng promoter acquired during Th2 polarization yet requires STAT4 along with T-box expressed in T cells. Surprisingly, loss of either STAT4 or T-box expressed in T cells increased Ifng promoter CpG methylation in both effector and memory Th2 cells. Taken together, our data suggest a model in which the expression of IFN-γ by Th2-derived memory cells involves attenuation of epigenetic repression in memory Th2 cells, combined with Th1-polarizing signals after their recall activation.