Regulation of IL-2 expression by transcription factor BACH2 in umbilical cord blood CD4+ T cells

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On activation, umbilical cord blood (UCB) CD4+ T cells demonstrate reduced expression of tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) and interferon-γ (IFN-γ), whereas maintaining equivalent interleukin-2 (IL-2) levels, as compared with adult peripheral blood (PB) CD4+ T cells. Nuclear factor of activated T cells (NFAT1) protein, a transcription factor known to regulate the expression of IL-2, TNF-α and IFN-γ, is reduced in resting and activated UCB CD4+ T cells. In contrast, expression of Broad-complex-Tramtrack-Bric-a-Brac and Cap‘n’collar homology 1 bZip transcription factor 2 (BACH2) was shown by gene array analyses to be increased in UCB CD4+ T cells and was validated by qRT-PCR. Using chromatin immunoprecipitation, BACH2 was shown binding to the human IL-2 proximal promoter. Knockdown experiments of BACH2 by transient transfection of UCB CD4+ T cells with BACH2 siRNA resulted in significant reductions in stimulated IL-2 production. Decreased IL-2 gene transcription in UCB CD4+ T cells transfected with BACH2 siRNA was confirmed by a human IL-2 luciferase assay. In summary, BACH2 maintains IL-2 expression in UCB CD4+ T cells at levels equivalent to adult PB CD4+ T cells despite reduced NFAT1 protein expression. Thus, BACH2 expression is necessary to maintain IL-2 production when NFAT1 protein is reduced, potentially impacting UCB graft CD4+ T-cell allogeneic responses.

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