BackgroundActivation and differentiation of T-helper (Th) cells into Th1 and Th2 types is a complex process orchestrated by distinct gene activation programs engaging a number of genes. This process is crucial for a robust immune response and an imbalance might lead to disease states such as autoimmune diseases or allergy. Therefore, identification of genes involved in this process is paramount to further understand the pathogenesis of, and design interventions for, immune-mediated diseases.
MethodsWe aimed at identifying protein-coding genes and long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) involved in early differentiation of T-helper cells by transcriptome analysis of cord blood-derived naïve precursor, primary and polarized cells.
ResultsHere, we identified lineage-specific genes involved in early differentiation of Th1 and Th2 subsets by integrating transcriptional profiling data from multiple platforms. We have obtained a high confidence list of genes as well as a list of novel genes by employing more than one profiling platform. We show that the density of lineage-specific epigenetic marks is higher around lineage-specific genes than anywhere else in the genome. Based on next-generation sequencing data we identified lineage-specific lncRNAs involved in early Th1 and Th2 differentiation and predicted their expected functions through Gene Ontology analysis. We show that there is a positive trend in the expression of the closest lineage-specific lncRNA and gene pairs. We also found out that there is an enrichment of disease SNPs around a number of lncRNAs identified, suggesting that these lncRNAs might play a role in the etiology of autoimmune diseases.
ConclusionThe results presented here show the involvement of several new actors in the early differentiation of T-helper cells and will be a valuable resource for better understanding of autoimmune processes.