Background: Immunological memory is the ability of the immune system to respond more rapidly and effectively to previously encountered pathogens, a key feature of adaptive immunity. The capacity of memory T cells to "remember" previous cellular responses to specific antigens ultimately resides in their unique patterns of gene expression. Following re-exposure to an antigen, previously activated genes are transcribed more rapidly and robustly in memory T cells compared to their naïve counterparts. The ability for cells to remember past transcriptional responses is termed "adaptive transcriptional memory". Results: Recent global epigenome studies suggest that epigenetic mechanisms are central to establishing and maintaining transcriptional memory, with elegant studies in model organisms providing tantalizing insights into the epigenetic programs that contribute to adaptive immunity. These epigenetic mechanisms are diverse, and include not only classical acetylation and methylation events, but also exciting and less well-known mechanisms involving histone structure, upstream signalling pathways, and nuclear localisation of genomic regions. Conclusions: Current global health challenges in areas such as tuberculosis and influenza demand not only more effective and safer vaccines, but also vaccines for a wider range of health priorities, including HIV, cancer, and emerging pathogens such as Ebola. Understanding the multi-layered epigenetic mechanisms that underpin the rapid recall responses of memory T cells following reactivation is a critical component of this development pathway.
Dunn, J., McCuaig, R., Tu, W. J., Hardy, K., & Rao, S. (2015). Multi-layered epigenetic mechanisms contribute to transcriptional memory in T lymphocytes. BMC Immunology, 16(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12865-015-0089-9