Chronic exposure to trichloroethylene increases DNA methylation of the Ifng promoter in CD4(+) T cells
CD4(+) T cells in female MRL+/+ mice exposed to solvent and water pollutant trichloroethylene (TCE) skew toward effector/memory CD4(+) T cells, and demonstrate seemingly non-monotonic alterations in IFN-γ production. In the current study we examined the mechanism for this immunotoxicity using effector/memory and naïve CD4(+) T cells isolated every 6 weeks during a 40 week exposure to TCE (0.5mg/ml in drinking water). A time-dependent effect of TCE exposure on both Ifng gene expression and IFN-γ protein production was observed in effector/memory CD4(+) T cells, with an increase after 22 weeks of exposure and a decrease after 40 weeks of exposure. No such effect of TCE was observed in naïve CD4(+) T cells. A cumulative increase in DNA methylation in the CpG sites of the promoter of the Ifng gene was observed in effector/memory, but not naïve, CD4(+) T cells over time. Also unique to the Ifng promoter was an increase in methylation variance in effector/memory compared to naïve CD4(+) T cells. Taken together, the CpG sites of the Ifng promoter in effector/memory CD4(+) T cells were especially sensitive to the effects of TCE exposure, which may help explain the regulatory effect of the chemical on this gene.