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Scientific divagations: from signaling and transcription to chromatin changes in T cells

Anjana Rao describes the team effort to define the changes in chromatin accessibility in naive T cells during TH1 and TH2 cell differentiation after stimulation with TCR ligands and the appropriate cytokines. Her lab showed that differentiated TH1 and TH2 cells, which produce the cytokines IFN-γ and IL-4, respectively, displayed distinct patterns of DNase I hypersensitivity, histone acetylation and NFAT1 transcription factor binding around the Ifng and Il4 genes. This project turned them into a ‘real’ immunology lab!

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I thank all the members of our labs — students, postdocs, technicians and administrative folks — who have contributed to these various projects over the years. Special thanks to Suneet Agarwal, who delved fearlessly into unfamiliar fields to initiate what was at the time a rather high risk project; provided help and advice to two new graduate students, Debbie Solymar and Dong Lee; and bequeathed us some interesting gene-disrupted mice for Mark Ansel and Debbie Solymar to investigate in later years. Special thanks also to Orly Avni, who gamely (and successfully) struggled with chromatin immunoprecipitation at a time when very few people had mastered this still difficult technique. Thanks to Mark Ansel, who took the gene-disrupted mice off my hands and continued to analyze them when he set up his own lab at UCSF (we were both a little tired of the project by that time). Finally, we are grateful to the US National Institutes of Health for funding the research; typically, however, the applications were funded after the discoveries had all been made, and the study sections took pains to ensure that any post-discovery funding was strictly for pedestrian extensions of the original research.

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Correspondence to Anjana Rao.

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Rao, A. Scientific divagations: from signaling and transcription to chromatin changes in T cells. Nat Immunol 21, 1473–1476 (2020).

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