Ikaros family members are important regulatory factors in lymphocyte development. Here we show that Ikaros may play an important role in CD4 versus CD8 lineage commitment decisions by demonstrating: (1) that it binds to regulatory elements in the endogenous CD8α locus in vivo using thymocyte chromatin immunoprecipitations, (2) that Ikaros suppresses position effect variegation of transgenes driven by CD8 regulatory elements, and (3) that mice with reduced levels of Ikaros and Aiolos show an apparent increase in CD4 populations with immature phenotype, i.e., cells that failed to activate the CD8α gene locus. We propose that Ikaros family members function as activators of the CD8α gene locus and that their associated activities are critical for appropriate chromatin remodeling transitions during thymocyte differentiation and lineage commitment.
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