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The histone methyltransferase DOT1L prevents antigen-independent differentiation and safeguards epigenetic identity of CD8+ T cells

By Eliza Mari Kwesi-Maliepaard, Muhammad Assad Aslam, Mir Farshid Alemdehy, Teun van den Brand, Chelsea McLean, Hanneke Vlaming, Tibor van Welsem, Tessy Korthout, Cesare Lancini, Sjoerd Hendriks, Tomasz Ahrends, Dieke van Dinther, Joke M.M. den Haan, Jannie Borst, Elzo de Wit, Fred van Leeuwen, Heinz Jacobs

Posted 31 Oct 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/826255

Cytotoxic T-cell differentiation is guided by epigenome adaptations but how epigenetic mechanisms control lymphocyte development has not been well defined. Here we show that the histone methyltransferase DOT1L, which marks the nucleosome core on active genes, safeguards normal differentiation of CD8+ T cells. T-cell specific ablation of Dot1L resulted in loss of naïve CD8+ T cells and premature differentiation towards a memory-like state, independent of antigen exposure and in a cell-intrinsic manner. Without DOT1L, the memory-like CD8+ cells fail to acquire full effector functions in vitro and in vivo . Mechanistically, DOT1L controlled T-cell differentiation and function by ensuring normal T-cell receptor density and signaling, and by maintaining epigenetic identity, in part by indirectly supporting the repression of developmentally-regulated genes. Through our study DOT1L is emerging as a central player in physiology of CD8+ T cells, acting as a barrier to prevent premature differentiation and supporting the licensing of the full effector potential of cytotoxic T cells.

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