Early Th1 Cell Differentiation Is Marked by a Tfh Cell-like Transition

Molecular Immunology and Inflammation Branch, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.
Immunity (Impact Factor: 19.75). 12/2011; 35(6):919-31. DOI: 10.1016/j.immuni.2011.11.012
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Follicular helper T (Tfh) cells comprise an important subset of helper T cells; however, their relationship with other helper lineages is incompletely understood. Herein, we showed interleukin-12 acting via the transcription factor STAT4 induced both Il21 and Bcl6 genes, generating cells with features of both Tfh and Th1 cells. However, STAT4 also induced the transcription factor T-bet. With ChIP-seq, we defined the genome-wide targets of T-bet and found that it repressed Bcl6 and other markers of Tfh cells, thereby attenuating the nascent Tfh cell-like phenotype in the late phase of Th1 cell specification. Tfh-like cells were rapidly generated after Toxoplasma gondii infection in mice, but T-bet constrained Tfh cell expansion and consequent germinal center formation and antibody production. Our data argue that Tfh and Th1 cells share a transitional stage through the signal mediated by STAT4, which promotes both phenotypes. However, T-bet represses Tfh cell functionalities, promoting full Th1 cell differentiation.

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    ABSTRACT: T follicular helper cells (Tfh) are crucial for the initiation and maintenance of germinal center (GC) reactions and high affinity, isotype-switched antibody responses. In this study, we demonstrate that direct TGF-β signaling to CD4 T cells is important for the formation of influenza-specific Tfh cells, GC reactions and development of isotype-switched, flu-specific antibody responses. Early during infection, TGF-β signaling suppressed the expression of the high affinity IL-2 receptor α chain (CD25) on virus-specific CD4 T cells, which tempered IL-2 signaling and STAT5 and mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) activation in Tfh precursor CD4 T cells. Inhibition of mTOR allowed for the differentiation of Tfh cells in the absence of TGF-βR signaling, suggesting that TGF-β insulates Tfh progenitor cells from IL-2-delivered mTOR signals, thereby promoting Tfh differentiation during acute viral infection. These findings identify a new pathway critical for the generation of Tfh cells and humoral responses during respiratory viral infections.
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    ABSTRACT: T follicular helper (Tfh) cells are the subset of CD4 T helper cells that are required for generation and maintenance of germinal center reactions and the generation of long-lived humoral immunity. This specialized T helper subset provides help to cognate B cells via their expression of CD40 ligand, IL-21, IL-4, and other molecules. Tfh cells are characterized by their expression of the chemokine receptor CXCR5, expression of the transcriptional repressor Bcl6, and their capacity to migrate to the follicle and promote germinal center B cell responses. Until recently, it remained unclear whether Tfh cells differentiated into memory cells and whether they maintain Tfh commitment at the memory phase. This review will highlight several recent studies that support the idea of Tfh-committed CD4 T cells at the memory stage of the immune response. The implication of these findings is that memory Tfh cells retain their capacity to recall their Tfh-specific effector functions upon reactivation to provide help for B cell responses and play an important role in prime and boost vaccination or during recall responses to infection. The markers that are useful for distinguishing Tfh effector and memory cells, as well as the limitations of using these markers will be discussed. Tfh effector and memory generation, lineage maintenance, and plasticity relative to other T helper lineages (Th1, Th2, Th17, etc.) will also be discussed. Ongoing discoveries regarding the maintenance and lineage stability versus plasticity of memory Tfh cells will improve strategies that utilize CD4 T cell memory to modulate antibody responses during prime and boost vaccination.
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