The histone methyltransferase DOT1L prevents antigen-independent differentiation and safeguards epigenetic identity of CD8+ T cells

Eliza Mari Kwesi-Maliepaard, Muhammad Assad Aslam, Mir Farshid Alemdehy, Teun V. Van Den Brand, Chelsea McLean, Hanneke Vlaming, Tibor van Welsem, Tessy Korthout, Cesare Lancini, Sjoerd Hendriks, Tomasz Ahrends, Dieke van Dinther, Joke M.M. den Haan, Jannie Borst, Elzo de Wit, Fred van Leeuwen*, Heinz Jacobs

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Cytotoxic T cell differentiation is guided by epigenome adaptations, but how epigenetic mechanisms control lymphocyte development has not been well defined. Here we show that the histone methyltransferase DOT1L, which marks the nucleosome core on active genes, safeguards normal differentiation of CD8+ T cells. T cell-specific ablation of Dot1L resulted in loss of naïve CD8+ T cells and premature differentiation toward a memory-like state, independent of antigen exposure and in a cell-intrinsic manner. Mechanistically, DOT1L controlled CD8+ T cell differentiation by ensuring normal T cell receptor density and signaling. DOT1L also maintained epigenetic identity, in part by indirectly supporting the repression of developmentally regulated genes. Finally, deletion of Dot1L in T cells resulted in an impaired immune response. Through our study, DOT1L is emerging as a central player in physiology of CD8+ T cells, acting as a barrier to prevent premature differentiation and controlling epigenetic integrity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20706-20716
Number of pages11
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number34
Publication statusPublished - 25 Aug 2020

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