CD4+)T helper cells are heterogeneous in terms of tissue-specific homing and cytokine synthesis phenotypes. The mechanisms for the acquisition of tissue-specific homing phenotypes and their relationship with the attainment of polarized cytokine synthesis profiles of T cells are critically important but poorly understood. Here, we analyze the coordinate acquisition of Th1 versus Th2 cytokine (IFN-gamma vs. IL-4) and skin- versus gut-homing (CLA vs. integrin beta7) phenotypes in human CD4+ T cells. We show that the acquisition of skin- versus gut-homing T cell phenotypes is independent of Th1 versus Th2 cell fate determination and that it occurs in relation to cell cycle progression following instructive mechanisms and distinct kinetics. Expression of chemokine receptors CXCR3 and CCR4 correlates with the acquisition of Th1 versus Th2 rather than skin- versus gut-homing phenotypes. These findings, together with the skewed overlap observed in vivo between CLA vs. integrin beta7 and IL-4 vs. IFN-gamma expression, suggest a novel interpretation to the complex patterns of chemokine receptor expression on memory T cells.
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