Epigenetic Regulation of Dendritic Cell Development and Function
The immune system is characterized by the generation of structurally and functionally heterogeneous immune cells that constitute complex innate and adaptive immunity. This heterogeneity of immune cells results from changes in the expression of genes without altering DNA sequence. To achieve this heterogeneity, immune cells orchestrate the expression and functional status of transcription factor (TF) networks, which can be broadly categorized into 3 classes: pioneer TFs that facilitate initial commitment and differentiation of hematopoietic cells, subset-specific TFs that promote the generation of selected cell lineages, and immune-signaling TFs that regulate specialized function in differentiated cells. Epigenetic mechanisms are known to be critical for organizing the TF networks, thereby controlling immune cell lineage-fate decisions, plasticity, and function. The effects of epigenetic regulators can be heritable during cell mitosis, primarily through the modification of DNA and histone methylation patterns at gene loci. By doing so, the immune system is enabled to mount a selective but robust response to stimuli, such as pathogens, tumor cells, autoantigens, or allogeneic antigens in the setting of transplantation, while preserving the immune cell reservoir necessary for protecting the host against numerous other unexpected stimuli and limit detrimental effect of systemic inflammatory reactions.