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Transcriptional repressor ZEB2 promotes terminal differentiation of CD8+ effector and memory T cell populations during infection.

  • Author(s): Omilusik, Kyla D
  • Best, J Adam
  • Yu, Bingfei
  • Goossens, Steven
  • Weidemann, Alexander
  • Nguyen, Jessica V
  • Seuntjens, Eve
  • Stryjewska, Agata
  • Zweier, Christiane
  • Roychoudhuri, Rahul
  • Gattinoni, Luca
  • Bird, Lynne M
  • Higashi, Yujiro
  • Kondoh, Hisato
  • Huylebroeck, Danny
  • Haigh, Jody
  • Goldrath, Ananda W
  • et al.
Abstract

ZEB2 is a multi-zinc-finger transcription factor known to play a significant role in early neurogenesis and in epithelial-mesenchymal transition-dependent tumor metastasis. Although the function of ZEB2 in T lymphocytes is unknown, activity of the closely related family member ZEB1 has been implicated in lymphocyte development. Here, we find that ZEB2 expression is up-regulated by activated T cells, specifically in the KLRG1(hi) effector CD8(+) T cell subset. Loss of ZEB2 expression results in a significant loss of antigen-specific CD8(+) T cells after primary and secondary infection with a severe impairment in the generation of the KLRG1(hi) effector memory cell population. We show that ZEB2, which can bind DNA at tandem, consensus E-box sites, regulates gene expression of several E-protein targets and may directly repress Il7r and Il2 in CD8(+) T cells responding to infection. Furthermore, we find that T-bet binds to highly conserved T-box sites in the Zeb2 gene and that T-bet and ZEB2 regulate similar gene expression programs in effector T cells, suggesting that T-bet acts upstream and through regulation of ZEB2. Collectively, we place ZEB2 in a larger transcriptional network that is responsible for the balance between terminal differentiation and formation of memory CD8(+) T cells.

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