Thymocyte development requires a complex orchestration of multiple transcription factors. Ablating either TCF-1 or HEB in CD4+CD8+ thymocytes elicits similar developmental outcomes including increased proliferation, decreased survival, and fewer late Tcra rearrangements. Here, we provide a mechanistic explanation for these similarities by showing that TCF-1 and HEB share ~7,000 DNA-binding sites genome wide and promote chromatin accessibility. The binding of both TCF-1 and HEB was required at these shared sites for epigenetic and transcriptional gene regulation. Binding of TCF-1 and HEB to their conserved motifs in the enhancer regions of genes associated with T cell differentiation promoted their expression. Binding to sites lacking conserved motifs in the promoter regions of cell-cycle-associated genes limited proliferation. TCF-1 displaced nucleosomes, allowing for chromatin accessibility. Importantly, TCF-1 inhibited Notch signaling and consequently protected HEB from Notch-mediated proteasomal degradation. Thus, TCF-1 shifts nucleosomes and safeguards HEB, thereby enabling their cooperation in establishing the epigenetic and transcription profiles of CD4+CD8+ thymocytes.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy