T-box transcription factor, T-bet, has a central role in the differentiation of T-helper (Th) progenitor cells to Th1 or Th2 effector cells, partly by regulating the expression of genes such as interferon-γ (IFN-γ). However, the direct target genes, especially those mediating the transcriptional network initiated by T-bet, are not yet fully understood. By combining chromatin immunoprecipitation from Th1 cells with human cytosine-phosphate-guanine-island array analysis, Onecut 2 (OC2), which encodes a member of the ONECUT class of transcriptional activators, was identified as a direct target gene of T-bet. OC2 is expressed in Th1 but not Th2 cells and reporter assays showed that T-bet transactivates OC2 transcription through putative T-bet half-sites locating -451 to -347 of OC2 promoter region. Moreover, we found that OC2 binds and transactivates human T-bet promoter. These results suggest that not only cell-extrinsic regulation via the IFN-γ/STAT1 pathway, but also cell-intrinsic transcriptional positive feedback loop between T-bet and OC2 could be involved in Th1 development.
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