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Constitutive cytokine mRNAs mark natural killer (NK) and NK T cells poised for rapid effector function.

Natural killer (NK) and NK T cells are tissue lymphocytes that secrete cytokines rapidly upon stimulation. Here, we show that these cells maintain distinct patterns of constitutive cytokine mRNAs. Unlike conventional T cells, NK T cells activate interleukin (IL)-4 and interferon (IFN)-gamma transcription during thymic development and populate the periphery with both cytokine loci previously modified by histone acetylation. Similarly, NK cells transcribe and modify the IFN-gamma gene, but not IL-4, during developmental maturation in the bone marrow. Lineage-specific patterns of cytokine transcripts predate infection and suggest evolutionary selection for invariant but distinct types of effector responses among the earliest responding lymphocytes.

Pubmed ID: 14530376


  • Stetson DB
  • Mohrs M
  • Reinhardt RL
  • Baron JL
  • Wang ZE
  • Gapin L
  • Kronenberg M
  • Locksley RM


The Journal of experimental medicine

Publication Data

October 6, 2003

Associated Grants

  • Agency: NIAID NIH HHS, Id: AI 30663
  • Agency: NCI NIH HHS, Id: CA 52511
  • Agency: NHLBI NIH HHS, Id: HL 56385

Mesh Terms

  • Animals
  • Chromatin
  • Fluorescence
  • Interferon-gamma
  • Interleukin-4
  • Killer Cells, Natural
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • RNA, Messenger
  • T-Lymphocytes
  • Transcription, Genetic