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March 4, 2009

Follicular Helper T Cells Regulated by the T-Cell Antigen Receptor Binding

  • Scientists from the Scripps Research Institute have discovered what governs the quality and quantity of follicular helper T cells (TFH), which regulate antibody responses and long-term immune protection.

    Using mouse models of protein vaccination, the researchers selected adjuvants that drive the greatest TFH-cell response. They showed that the helper T cells with the strongest binding receptor for the foreign protein antigen preferentially became the specialized TFH cells. It is these TFH cells that regulate B cells, antibody class, and affinity.

    “It looks as if the strength of that initial contact is driving cell fate,” says Michael McHeyzer-Williams, Ph.D., professor at the Scripps Research Institute. “If the helper T cells have a strong receptor for the antigen the first time they encounter it, they are much more likely to become TFH cells. More TFH cells likely means more B cells, which is the desired result.”

    The team defined three transcription factor T-bet–expressing antigen-specific effector helper T cell subsets with distinguishable function, migratory properties, and developmental programming in vivo.

    The study appeared in the March 1 online issue of Nature Immunology.

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