CD25(+) Bcl6(low) T follicular helper cells provide help to maturing B cells in germinal centers of human tonsil

Haishan Li, C David Pauza
European Journal of Immunology 2015, 45 (1): 298-308
The majority of CXCR5(+) PD1(+) CD4(+) T follicular helper (Tfh) cells (>90%) are CD25(-) Bcl6(hi) , while a small subpopulation (<10%) are CD25(+) Bcl6(low) but do not express FoxP3 and are not T regulatory cells. We purified T:B-cell conjugates from tonsils and found they were enriched for the CD25(+) Bcl6(low) Tfh-cell subpopulation. In response to IL-2, these CD25(+) Tfh cells increased expression of costimulatory molecules ICOS or OX40, upregulated transcription factor cMaf, produced cytokines IL-21, IL-17, and IL-10, and raised the levels of antiapoptotic protein Bcl2. Conjugates formed with CD25(+) BCl6(low) Tfh cells included B cells expressing higher levels of activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID), memory marker CD45RO, surface IgG or IgA, and MHC class II compared to B-cell conjugates including CD25(-) Bcl6(hi) Tfh cells. While IL-2 suppresses early Tfh-cell differentiation, Tfh-cell recognition of antigen-presenting B cells and signaling through the T-cell receptor likely triggers expression of the high-affinity IL-2 receptor and responses to IL-2 including downregulation of Bcl6. CD25 expression on Tfh cells and local production of IL-2 in tonsil or lymph node may support B helper T-cell function during later stages of B-cell maturation and the development of immune memory.

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