2022-08-16Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.18452/25266
Dissecting the dynamic transcriptional landscape of early T helper cell differentiation into Th1, Th2, and Th1/2 hybrid cells
Selective differentiation of CD4+ T helper (Th) cells into specialized subsets such as Th1 and Th2 cells is a key element of the adaptive immune system driving appropriate immune responses. Besides those canonical Th-cell lineages, hybrid phenotypes such as Th1/2 cells arise in vivo, and their generation could be reproduced in vitro. While master-regulator transcription factors like T-bet for Th1 and GATA-3 for Th2 cells drive and maintain differentiation into the canonical lineages, the transcriptional architecture of hybrid phenotypes is less well understood. In particular, it has remained unclear whether a hybrid phenotype implies a mixture of the effects of several canonical lineages for each gene, or rather a bimodal behavior across genes. Th-cell differentiation is a dynamic process in which the regulatory factors are modulated over time, but longitudinal studies of Th-cell differentiation are sparse. Here, we present a dynamic transcriptome analysis following Th-cell differentiation into Th1, Th2, and Th1/2 hybrid cells at 3-h time intervals in the first hours after stimulation. We identified an early bifurcation point in gene expression programs, and we found that only a minority of ~20% of Th cell-specific genes showed mixed effects from both Th1 and Th2 cells on Th1/2 hybrid cells. While most genes followed either Th1- or Th2-cell gene expression, another fraction of ~20% of genes followed a Th1 and Th2 cell-independent transcriptional program associated with the transcription factors STAT1 and STAT4. Overall, our results emphasize the key role of high-resolution longitudinal data for the characterization of cellular phenotypes.