Acquiring the ability to selectively produce IFN-gamma or IL-4 is a fundamental property of the immune system and enables T cell subsets (Th1, Th2) to deliver their effector functions. To create an experimental system to examine regulation of critical promoter elements within the IL-4 gene, we have prepared and analyzed transgenic mice expressing the luciferase gene under the control of the distal NF-AT binding site from the IL-4 promoter. This site is immediately adjacent to an AP-1 site, and this NF-AT/AP-1 composite site is termed either P1 or PubB. The distal NF-AT site we have used to prepare these reporter transgenic mice lacks the AP-1 binding site but contains the NF-AT binding site (P1(NF-AT)) These transgenic mice were also intercrossed with transgenic mice expressing a single MHC class II-restricted TCR. Expression of transcriptional activity under the control of P1(NF-AT) was observed only in effector T cells, and not naive T cells, after stimulation with Ag or polyclonal stimuli. By contrast, gel mobility shift assays showed that nuclear extracts from both naive and effector T cells contained NF-AT, which could effectively bind to the P1(NF-AT) element. IL-4-stimulated Th2 differentiation did not increase the TCR responsiveness of the P1(NF-AT) element by more than 2-fold but increased production of IL-4 protein by more than 10-fold. These data suggest that factors interacting with the P1(NF-AT) element regulate transcriptional activity in a naive/effector T cell-specific manner but not in a Th1/Th2-specific manner. Th1/Th2-specific regulation of the composite P1 element may result from regulation of transacting factors that bind to the AP-1 portion of this element.

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