To study the in vivo role of IL-4-expressing cells, we developed a strategy to tag these cells, by generating mice in which one IL-4 allele was replaced with a cDNA encoding the human CD2 (huCD2) cell-surface molecule. Expression of the huCD2 reporter was, like IL-4, restricted to the appropriately polarized T helper 2 cells. However, most of the cells expressed only the IL-4 or the targeted allele. Analysis of the frequency of monoallelic versus biallelic expression suggests that the activation of each individual allele is regulated by a stochastic process whose probability can be augmented by increasing the strength of signal delivered through the TCR. Allele-specific activation may be a general feature of cytokine regulation that contributes to the functional diversity within T helper cell subpopulations.
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