The Emergence and Functional Fitness of Memory CD4+ T Cells Require the Transcription Factor Thpok
Memory CD4+ T cells mediate long-term immunity, and their generation is a key objective of vaccination strategies. However, the transcriptional circuitry controlling the emergence of memory cells from early CD4+ antigen-responders remains poorly understood. Here, using single-cell RNA-seq to study the transcriptome of virus-specific CD4+ T cells, we identified a gene signature that distinguishes potential memory precursors from effector cells. We found that both that signature and the emergence of memory CD4+ T cells required the transcription factor Thpok. We further demonstrated that Thpok cell-intrinsically protected memory cells from a dysfunctional, effector-like transcriptional program, similar to but distinct from the exhaustion pattern of cells responding to chronic infection. Mechanistically, Thpok- bound genes encoding the transcription factors Blimp1 and Runx3 and acted by antagonizing their expression. Thus, a Thpok-dependent circuitry promotes both memory CD4+ T cells' differentiation and functional fitness, two previously unconnected critical attributes of adaptive immunity.
Publisher URL: https://www.cell.com/immunity/fulltext/S1074-7613(18)30567-3
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