Autosomal recessive mutations in UNC13D, the gene that encodes Munc13-4, are associated with familial hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis type 3 (FHL3). Munc13-4 expression is obligatory for exocytosis of lytic granules, facilitating cytotoxicity by T cells and natural killer (NK) cells. The mechanisms regulating Munc13-4 expression are unknown. Here, we report that Munc13-4 is highly expressed in differentiated human NK cells and effector CD8+ T lymphocytes. A UNC13D c.118-308C>T mutation, causative of FHL3, disrupted binding of the ETS family member ELF1 to a conserved intronic sequence. This mutation impairs UNC13D intron 1 recruitment of STAT4 and the chromatin remodeling complex component BRG1, diminishing active histone modifications at the locus. The intronic sequence acted as an overall enhancer of Munc13-4 expression in cytotoxic lymphocytes in addition to representing an alternative promoter encoding a novel Munc13-4 isoform. Mechanistically, T cell receptor engagement facilitated STAT4-dependent Munc13-4 expression in naive CD8+ T lymphocytes. Collectively, our data demonstrates how chromatin remodeling within an evolutionarily conserved regulatory element in intron 1 of UNC13D regulates the induction of Munc13-4 expression in cytotoxic lymphocytes and suggests that an alternative Munc13-4 isoform is required for lymphocyte cytotoxicity. Thus, mutations associated with primary immunodeficiencies may cause disease by disrupting transcription factor binding.