The discovery of innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) with selective production of cytokines typically attributed to subsets of T helper cells forces immunologists to reassess the mechanisms by which selective effector functions arise. The parallelism between ILCs and T cells extends beyond these two cell types and comprises other innate-like T lymphocytes. Beyond the recognition of specialized effector functionalities in diverse lymphocytes, features typical of T cells, such as plasticity and memory, are also relevant for innate lymphocytes. Herein, we review what we have learned in terms of the molecular mechanisms underlying these shared functions, focusing on insights provided by next generation sequencing technologies. We review data on the role of lineage-defining- and signal-dependent transcription factors (TFs). ILC regulomes emerge developmentally whereas the much of the open chromatin regions of T cells are generated acutely, in an activation-dependent manner. And yet, these regions of open chromatin in T cells and ILCs have remarkable overlaps, suggesting that though accessibility is acquired by distinct modes, the end result is that convergent signaling pathways may be involved. Although much is left to be learned, substantial progress has been made in understanding how TFs and epigenomic status contribute to ILC biology in terms of differentiation, specification, and plasticity.
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