The failure to generate enduring humoral immunity after vaccination is a hallmark of advancing age. This can be attributed to a reduction in the germinal center (GC) response, which generates long-lived antibody-secreting cells that protect against (re)infection. Despite intensive investigation, the primary cellular defect underlying impaired GCs in aging has not been identified. Here, we used heterochronic parabiosis to demonstrate that GC formation was dictated by the age of the lymph node (LN) microenvironment rather than the age of the immune cells. Lymphoid stromal cells are a key determinant of the LN microenvironment and are also an essential component underpinning GC structure and function. Using mouse models, we demonstrated that mucosal adressin cell adhesion molecule-1 (MAdCAM-1)-expressing lymphoid stromal cells were among the first cells to respond to NP-KLH + Alum immunization, proliferating and up-regulating cell surface proteins such as podoplanin and cell adhesion molecules. This response was essentially abrogated in aged mice. By targeting TLR4 using adjuvants, we improved the MAdCAM-1 stromal cell response to immunization. This correlated with improved GC responses in both younger adult and aged mice, suggesting a link between stromal cell responses to immunization and GC initiation. Using bone marrow chimeras, we also found that MAdCAM-1 stromal cells could respond directly to TLR4 ligands. Thus, the age-associated defect in GC and stromal cell responses to immunization can be targeted to improve vaccines in older people.
Vaccines are a highly effective intervention for conferring protection against infections and reducing the associated morbidity and mortality in vaccinated individuals. However, ageing is often associated with a functional decline in the immune system that results in poor antibody production in older individuals after vaccination. A key contributing factor of this age-related decline in vaccine efficacy is the reduced size and function of the germinal centre (GC) response. GCs are specialised microstructures where B cells undergo affinity maturation and diversification of their antibody genes, before differentiating into long-lived antibody-secreting plasma cells and memory B cells. The GC response requires the coordinated interaction of many different cell types, including B cells, T follicular helper (Tfh) cells, T follicular regulatory (Tfr) cells and stromal cell subsets like follicular dendritic cells (FDCs). This review discusses how ageing affects different components of the GC reaction that contribute to its limited output and ultimately impaired antibody responses in older individuals after vaccination. An understanding of the mechanisms underpinning the age-related decline in the GC response is crucial in informing strategies to improve vaccine efficacy and extend the healthy lifespan among older people.
Antibody production following vaccination can provide protective immunity to subsequent infection by pathogens such as influenza viruses. However, circumstances where antibody formation is impaired after vaccination, such as in older people, require us to better understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms that underpin successful vaccination in order to improve vaccine design for at-risk groups. Here, by studying the breadth of anti-haemagglutinin (HA) IgG, serum cytokines, and B and T cell responses by flow cytometry before and after influenza vaccination, we show that formation of circulating T follicular helper (cTfh) cells was associated with high-titre antibody responses. Using Major Histocompatability Complex (MHC) class II tetramers, we demonstrate that HA-specific cTfh cells can derive from pre-existing memory CD4 T cells and have a diverse T cell receptor (TCR) repertoire. In older people, the differentiation of HA-specific cells into cTfh cells was impaired. This age-dependent defect in cTfh cell formation was not due to a contraction of the TCR repertoire, but rather was linked with an increased inflammatory gene signature in cTfh cells. Together, this suggests that strategies that temporarily dampen inflammation at the time of vaccination may be a viable strategy to boost optimal antibody generation upon immunisation of older people.
Inhibition of ferroptosis via selenium supplementation promotes the survival of follicular helper T cells, boosting the germinal center and antibody response following vaccination in mice and people.
T follicular helper (Tfh) cells cognately guide differentiation of antigen-primed B cells in secondary lymphoid tissues. 'Tfh-like' populations not expressing the canonical Tfh cell transcription factor BCL6 have also been described, which can aid particular aspects of B cell differentiation. Tfh and Tfh-like cells are essential for protective and pathological humoral immunity. These CD4 T cells that help B cells are polarized to produce diverse combinations of cytokines and chemokine receptors and can be grouped into distinct subsets that promote antibodies of different isotype, affinity, and duration, according to the nature of immune challenge. However, unified nomenclature to describe the distinct functional Tfh and Tfh-like cells does not exist. While explicitly acknowledging cellular plasticity, we propose categorizing these cell states into three groups based on phenotype and function, paired with their anatomical site of action.
Location of immune cells that form the germinal center reaction within secondary lymphoid tissues can be characterized using confocal microscopy. Here, we present an optimized immunofluorescence staining protocol to image germinal center structures in fixed/frozen spleen sections from ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 immunized mice. This protocol can be adapted to identify other cell types within secondary lymphoid tissues. For complete information on the generation and use of this protocol to examine immune responses to the COVID vaccine ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, please refer to Silva-Cayetano et al. (2020).
Although two-dose mRNA vaccination provides excellent protection against SARS-CoV-2, data are scarce on vaccine efficacy against variants of concern (VOC) in individuals above 80 years of age. Here we analysed immune responses following vaccination with mRNA vaccine BNT162b2 in elderly participants and younger health care workers. Serum neutralisation and binding IgG/IgA after the first vaccine dose diminished with increasing age, with a marked drop in participants over 80 years old. Sera from participants above 80 showed significantly lower neutralisation potency against B.1.1.7, B.1.351 and P.1. variants of concern as compared to wild type and were more likely to lack any neutralisation against VOC following the first dose. However, following the second dose, neutralisation against VOC was detectable regardless of age. Frequency of SARS-CoV-2 Spike specific B-memory cells was higher in elderly responders versus non-responders after first dose. Elderly participants demonstrated clear reduction in somatic hypermutation of class switched cells. SARS-CoV-2 Spike specific T- cell IFNγ and IL-2 responses decreased with increasing age, and both cytokines were secreted primarily by CD4 T cells. We conclude that the elderly are a high risk population that warrant specific measures to boost vaccine responses, particularly where variants of concern are circulating.
Follicular helper T (T) cells control antibody responses by supporting antibody affinity maturation and memory formation. Inadequate T function has been found in individuals with ineffective responses to vaccines, but the mechanism underlying T regulation in vaccination is not understood. Here, we report that lower serum levels of the metabolic hormone leptin associate with reduced vaccine responses to influenza or hepatitis B virus vaccines in healthy populations. Leptin promotes mouse and human T differentiation and IL-21 production via STAT3 and mTOR pathways. Leptin receptor deficiency impairs T generation and antibody responses in immunisation and infection. Similarly, leptin deficiency induced by fasting reduces influenza vaccination-mediated protection for the subsequent infection challenge, which is mostly rescued by leptin replacement. Our results identify leptin as a regulator of T cell differentiation and function and indicate low levels of leptin as a risk factor for vaccine failure.
Regulatory T cells prevent the emergence of autoantibodies and excessive IgE, but the precise mechanisms are unclear. Here, we show that BCL6-expressing Tregs, known as follicular regulatory T (Tfr) cells, produce abundant neuritin protein that targets B cells. Mice lacking Tfr cells or neuritin in Foxp3-expressing cells accumulated early plasma cells in germinal centers (GCs) and developed autoantibodies against histones and tissue-specific self-antigens. Upon immunization, these mice also produced increased plasma IgE and IgG1. We show that neuritin is taken up by B cells, causes phosphorylation of numerous proteins, and dampens IgE class switching. Neuritin reduced differentiation of mouse and human GC B cells into plasma cells, downregulated BLIMP-1, and upregulated BCL6. Administration of neuritin to Tfr-deficient mice prevented the accumulation of early plasma cells in GCs. Production of neuritin by Tfr cells emerges as a central mechanism to suppress B cell-driven autoimmunity and IgE-mediated allergies.
The spread of SARS-CoV-2 has caused a worldwide pandemic that has affected almost every aspect of human life. The development of an effective COVID-19 vaccine could limit the morbidity and mortality caused by infection and may enable the relaxation of social-distancing measures. Age is one of the most significant risk factors for poor health outcomes after SARS-CoV-2 infection; therefore, it is desirable that any new vaccine candidates elicit a robust immune response in older adults.
Ageing profoundly changes our immune system and is thought to be a driving factor in the morbidity and mortality associated with infectious disease in older people. We have previously shown that the impaired immunity to vaccination that occurs in aged individuals is partly attributed to the effect of age on T follicular helper (Tfh) cell formation. In this study, we examined how age intrinsically affects Tfh cell formation in both mice and humans. We show increased formation of Tfh precursors (pre-Tfh) but no associated increase in germinal centre (GC)-Tfh cells in aged mice, suggesting age-driven promotion of only early Tfh cell differentiation. Mechanistically, we show that ageing alters TCR signalling which drives expression of the Notch-associated transcription factor, RBPJ. Genetic or chemical modulation of RBPJ or Notch rescues this age-associated early Tfh cell differentiation, and increased intrinsic Notch activity recapitulates this phenomenon in younger mice. Our data offer mechanistic insight into the age-induced changes in T-cell activation that affects the differentiation and ultimately the function of effector T cells.
T cell regulation of antibody-mediated immunity is critical for health. In this issue of JEM, Li et al. (https://doi.org/10.1084/jem.20191537) identify the Cbl family of E3 ubiquitin ligases as B cell-intrinsic gatekeepers of T cell-dependent humoral immunity.
Efficient generation of germinal center (GC) responses requires directed movement of B cells between distinct microenvironments underpinned by specialized B cell-interacting reticular cells (BRCs). How BRCs are reprogrammed to cater to the developing GC remains unclear, and studying this process is largely hindered by incomplete resolution of the cellular composition of the B cell follicle. Here we used genetic targeting of Cxcl13-expressing cells to define the molecular identity of the BRC landscape. Single-cell transcriptomic analysis revealed that BRC subset specification was predetermined in the primary B cell follicle. Further topological remodeling of light and dark zone follicular dendritic cells required CXCL12-dependent crosstalk with B cells and dictated GC output by retaining B cells in the follicle and steering their interaction with follicular helper T cells. Together, our results reveal that poised BRC-defined microenvironments establish a feed-forward system that determines the efficacy of the GC reaction.
In Covre et al. and Pereira et al., the authors demonstrate the parallels between senescent NK cells and senescent CD8 T cells, and formalise the mechanism by which senescent CD8 T cells become more NK cell-like, through the action of sestrins.
The germinal centre (GC) is a specialized cellular structure that forms in response to antigenic stimulation. It generates long-term humoral immunity through the production of memory B cells and long-lived antibody-secreting plasma cells. Conventional GCs form within secondary lymphoid organs, where networks of specialised stromal cells that form during embryogenesis act as the stage upon which the various GC immune cell players are brought together, nurtured and co-ordinated to generate a productive response. In non-lymphoid organs, ectopic GCs can form in response to persistent antigenic and inflammatory stimuli. Unlike secondary lymphoid tissues, non-lymphoid organs do not have a developmentally programmed stromal cell network capable of supporting the germinal centre reaction; therefore, the local tissue stroma must be remodelled by inflammatory stimuli in order to host a GC reaction. These ectopic GCs produce memory B cells and plasma cells that form a critical component of the humoral immune response.
Germinal centres (GCs) are T follicular helper cell (Tfh)-dependent structures that form in response to vaccination, producing long-lived antibody secreting plasma cells and memory B cells that protect against subsequent infection. With advancing age the GC and Tfh cell response declines, resulting in impaired humoral immunity. We sought to discover what underpins the poor Tfh cell response in ageing and whether it is possible to correct it. Here, we demonstrate that older people and aged mice have impaired Tfh cell differentiation upon vaccination. This deficit is preceded by poor activation of conventional dendritic cells type 2 (cDC2) due to reduced type 1 interferon signalling. Importantly, the Tfh and cDC2 cell response can be boosted in aged mice by treatment with a TLR7 agonist. This demonstrates that age-associated defects in the cDC2 and Tfh cell response are not irreversible and can be enhanced to improve vaccine responses in older individuals.
Antibodies secreted within the intestinal tract provide protection from the invasion of microbes into the host tissues. Germinal center (GC) formation in lymph nodes and spleen strictly requires SLAM-associated protein (SAP)-mediated T cell functions; however, it is not known whether this mechanism plays a similar role in mucosal-associated lymphoid tissues. Here, we find that in Peyer's patches (PPs), SAP-mediated T cell help is required for promoting B cell selection in GCs, but not for clonal diversification. PPs of SAP-deficient mice host chronic GCs that are absent in T cell-deficient mice. GC B cells in SAP-deficient mice express AID and Bcl6 and generate plasma cells in proportion to the GC size. Single-cell IgA sequencing analysis reveals that these mice host few diversified clones that were subjected to mild selection forces. These findings demonstrate that T cell-derived help to B cells in PPs includes SAP-dependent and SAP-independent functions.
Children from low- and middle-income countries, where there is a high incidence of infectious disease, have the greatest need for the protection afforded by vaccination, but vaccines often show reduced efficacy in these populations. An improved understanding of how age, infection, nutrition, and genetics influence immune ontogeny and function is key to informing vaccine design for this at-risk population. We sought to identify factors that shape immune development in children under 5 years of age from Tanzania and Mozambique by detailed immunophenotyping of longitudinal blood samples collected during the RTS,S malaria vaccine phase 3 trial. In these cohorts, the composition of the immune system is dynamically transformed during the first years of life, and this was further influenced by geographical location, with some immune cell types showing an altered rate of development in Tanzanian children compared to Dutch children enrolled in the Generation R population-based cohort study. High-titer antibody responses to the RTS,S/AS01E vaccine were associated with an activated immune profile at the time of vaccination, including an increased frequency of antibody-secreting plasmablasts and follicular helper T cells. Anemic children had lower frequencies of recent thymic emigrant T cells, isotype-switched memory B cells, and plasmablasts; modulating iron bioavailability in vitro could recapitulate the B cell defects observed in anemic children. Our findings demonstrate that the composition of the immune system in children varies according to age, geographical location, and anemia status.
The germinal center (GC) response is critical for generating high-affinity humoral immunity and immunological memory, which forms the basis of successful immunization. Control of the GC response is thought to require follicular regulatory T (Tfr) cells, a subset of suppressive Foxp3 regulatory T cells located within GCs. Relatively little is known about the exact role of Tfr cells within the GC and how they exert their suppressive function. A unique feature of Tfr cells is their reported CXCR5-dependent localization to the GC. Here, we show that the lack of CXCR5 on Foxp3 regulatory T cells results in a reduced frequency, but not an absence, of GC-localized Tfr cells. This reduction in Tfr cells is not sufficient to alter the magnitude or output of the GC response. This demonstrates that additional, CXCR5-independent mechanisms facilitate Treg cell homing to the GC.
The generation of protective humoral immunity after vaccination relies on the productive interaction between antigen-specific B cells and T follicular helper (Tfh) cells. Despite the central role of Tfh cells in vaccine responses, there is currently no validated way to enhance their differentiation in humans. From paired human lymph node and blood samples, we identify a population of circulating Tfh cells that are transcriptionally and clonally similar to germinal center Tfh cells. In a clinical trial of vaccine formulations, circulating Tfh cells were expanded in Tanzanian volunteers when an experimental malaria vaccine was adjuvanted in GLA-SE but not when formulated in Alum. The GLA-SE-formulated peptide was associated with an increase in the extrafollicular antibody response, long-lived antibody production, and the emergence of public TCRβ clonotypes in circulating Tfh cells. We demonstrate that altering vaccine adjuvants is a rational approach for enhancing Tfh cells in humans, thereby supporting the long-lived humoral immunity that is required for effective vaccines.
Ageing is a complex multifactorial process associated with a plethora of disorders, which contribute significantly to morbidity worldwide. One of the organs significantly affected by age is the gut. Age-dependent changes of the gut-associated microbiome have been linked to increased frailty and systemic inflammation. This change in microbial composition with age occurs in parallel with a decline in function of the gut immune system; however, it is not clear whether there is a causal link between the two. Here we report that the defective germinal centre reaction in Peyer's patches of aged mice can be rescued by faecal transfers from younger adults into aged mice and by immunisations with cholera toxin, without affecting germinal centre reactions in peripheral lymph nodes. This demonstrates that the poor germinal centre reaction in aged animals is not irreversible, and that it is possible to improve this response in older individuals by providing appropriate stimuli.
Several tolerance checkpoints exist throughout B cell development to control autoreactive B cells and prevent the generation of pathogenic autoantibodies. FcγRIIb is an Fc receptor that inhibits B cell activation and, if defective, is associated with autoimmune disease, yet its impact on specific B cell tolerance checkpoints is unknown. Here we show that reduced expression of FcγRIIb enhances the deletion and anergy of autoreactive immature B cells, but in contrast promotes autoreactive B cell expansion in the germinal center and serum autoantibody production, even in response to exogenous, non-self antigens. Our data thus show that FcγRIIb has opposing effects on pre-immune and post-immune tolerance checkpoints, and suggest that B cell tolerance requires the control of bystander germinal center B cells with low or no affinity for the immunizing antigen.
Humoral alloimmunity is now recognized as a major determinant of transplant outcome. MHC glycoprotein is considered a typical T-dependent antigen, but the nature of the T cell alloresponse that underpins alloantibody generation remains poorly understood. Here, we examine how the relative frequencies of alloantigen-specific B cells and helper CD4 T cells influence the humoral alloimmune response and how this relates to antibody-mediated rejection (AMR). An MHC-mismatched murine model of cardiac AMR was developed, in which T cell help for alloantibody responses in T cell deficient () C57BL/6 recipients against donor H-2K MHC class I alloantigen was provided by adoptively transferred "TCR75" CD4 T cells that recognize processed H-2K allopeptide via the indirect-pathway. Transfer of large numbers (5 × 10) of TCR75 CD4 T cells was associated with rapid development of robust class-switched anti-H-2K humoral alloimmunity and BALB/c heart grafts were rejected promptly (MST 9 days). Grafts were not rejected in T and B cell deficient recipients that were reconstituted with TCR75 CD4 T cells or in control (non-reconstituted) recipients, suggesting that the transferred TCR75 CD4 T cells were mediating graft rejection principally by providing help for effector alloantibody responses. In support, acutely rejecting BALB/c heart grafts exhibited hallmark features of acute AMR, with widespread complement C4d deposition, whereas cellular rejection was not evident. In addition, passive transfer of immune serum from rejecting mice to recipients resulted in eventual BALB/c heart allograft rejection (MST 20 days). Despite being long-lived, the alloantibody responses observed at rejection of the BALB/c heart grafts were predominantly generated by extrafollicular foci: splenic germinal center (GC) activity had not yet developed; IgG secreting cells were confined to the splenic red pulp and bridging channels; and, most convincingly, rapid graft rejection still occurred when recipients were reconstituted with similar numbers of TCR75 CD4 T cells that are genetically incapable of providing T follicular helper cell function for generating GC alloimmunity. Similarly, alloantibody responses generated in recipients reconstituted with smaller number of wild-type TCR75 CD4 T cells (10), although long-lasting, did not have a discernible extrafollicular component, and grafts were rejected much more slowly (MST 50 days). By modeling antibody responses to Hen Egg Lysozyme protein, we confirm that a high ratio of antigen-specific helper T cells to B cells favors development of the extrafollicular response, whereas GC activity is favored by a relatively high ratio of B cells. In summary, a relative abundance of helper CD4 T cells favors development of strong extrafollicular alloantibody responses that mediate acute humoral rejection, without requirement for GC activity. This work is composed of two parts, of which this is Part I. Please read also Part II: Chhabra et al., 2019.
Different profiles of alloantibody responses are observed in the clinic, with those that persist, often despite targeted treatment, associated with poorer long-term transplant outcomes. Although such responses would suggest an underlying germinal center (GC) response, the relationship to cellular events within the allospecific B cell population is unclear. Here we examine the contribution of germinal center (GC) humoral alloimmunity to chronic antibody mediated rejection (AMR). A murine model of chronic AMR was developed in which T cell deficient () C57BL/6 recipients were challenged with MHC-mismatched BALB/c heart allografts and T cell help provided by reconstituting with 10 "TCR75" CD4 T cells that recognize self-restricted allopeptide derived from the H-2K MHC class I alloantigen. Reconstituted recipients developed Ig-switched anti-K alloantibody responses that were slow to develop, but long-lived, with confocal immunofluorescence and flow cytometric characterization of responding H-2K-allospecific B cells confirming persistent splenic GC activity. This was associated with T follicular helper (T) cell differentiation of the transferred TCR75 CD4 T cells. Heart grafts developed progressive allograft vasculopathy, and were rejected chronically (MST 50 days), with explanted allografts displaying features of humoral vascular rejection. Critically, late alloantibody responses were abolished, and heart grafts survived indefinitely, in recipients reconstituted with TCR75 CD4 T cells that were genetically incapable of providing T cell function. The GC response was associated with affinity maturation of the anti-K alloantibody response, and its contribution to progression of allograft vasculopathy related principally to secretion of alloantibody, rather than to enhanced alloreactive T cell priming, because grafts survived long-term when B cells could present alloantigen, but not secrete alloantibody. Similarly, sera sampled at late time points from chronically-rejecting recipients induced more vigorous donor endothelial responses than sera sampled earlier after transplantation. In summary, our results suggest that chronic AMR and progression of allograft vasculopathy is dependent upon allospecific GC activity, with critical help provided by T cells. Clinical strategies that target the T cell subset may hold therapeutic potential. This work is composed of two parts, of which this is Part II. Please read also Part I: Alsughayyir et al., 2019.
Ectopic lymphoid structures form in a wide range of inflammatory conditions, including infection, autoimmune disease, and cancer. In the context of infection, this response can be beneficial for the host: influenza A virus infection-induced pulmonary ectopic germinal centers give rise to more broadly cross-reactive antibody responses, thereby generating cross-strain protection. However, despite the ubiquity of ectopic lymphoid structures and their role in both health and disease, little is known about the mechanisms by which inflammation is able to convert a peripheral tissue into one that resembles a secondary lymphoid organ. Here, we show that type I IFN produced after viral infection can induce CXCL13 expression in a phenotypically distinct population of lung fibroblasts, driving CXCR5-dependent recruitment of B cells and initiating ectopic germinal center formation. This identifies type I IFN as a novel inducer of CXCL13, which, in combination with other stimuli, can promote lung remodeling, converting a nonlymphoid tissue into one permissive to functional tertiary lymphoid structure formation.
This data is related to the research article entitled "Germinal center humoral autoimmunity independently mediates progression of allograft vasculopathy" (Harper et al., 2016) . The data presented here focuses on the humoral autoimmune response triggered by transferred allogeneic CD4 T cells and includes details on: (a) the recipient splenic germinal center (GC) response; (b) augmentation of humoral autoimmunity and accelerated heart allograft rejection following transplantation from donors primed against recipient; (c) flow cytometric analysis of donor and recipient CD4 T cells for signature markers of T follicular helper cell differentiation; (d) donor endothelial cell migration in response to column purified autoantibody from recipient sera; (e) analysis of development of humoral responses in recipients following adoptive transfer of donor CD4 T cells and; (f) the development of humoral autoimmunity in mixed haematopoietic chimeric mice.
The development of humoral autoimmunity following organ transplantation is increasingly recognised, but of uncertain significance. We examine whether autoimmunity contributes independently to allograft rejection. In a MHC class II-mismatched murine model of chronic humoral rejection, we report that effector antinuclear autoantibody responses were initiated upon graft-versus-host allorecognition of recipient B cells by donor CD4 T-cells transferred within heart allografts. Consequently, grafts were rejected more rapidly, and with markedly augmented autoantibody responses, upon transplantation of hearts from donors previously primed against recipient. Nevertheless, rejection was dependent upon recipient T follicular helper (T) cell differentiation and provision of cognate (peptide-specific) help for maintenance as long-lived GC reactions, which diversified to encompass responses against vimentin autoantigen. Heart grafts transplanted into stable donor/recipient mixed haematopoietic chimeras, or from parental strain donors into F1 recipients (neither of which can trigger host adaptive alloimmune responses), nevertheless provoked GC autoimmunity and were rejected chronically, with rejection similarly dependent upon host T cell differentiation. Thus, autoantibody responses contribute independently of host adaptive alloimmunity to graft rejection, but require host T cell differentiation to maintain long-lived GC responses. The demonstration that one population of helper CD4 T-cells initiates humoral autoimmunity, but that a second population of T cells is required for its maintenance as a GC reaction, has important implications for how autoimmune-related phenomena manifest.
The germinal center (GC) is a specialized microstructure that forms in secondary lymphoid tissues, producing long-lived antibody secreting plasma cells and memory B cells, which can provide protection against reinfection. Within the GC, B cells undergo somatic mutation of the genes encoding their B cell receptors which, following successful selection, can lead to the emergence of B cell clones that bind antigen with high affinity. However, this mutation process can also be dangerous, as it can create autoreactive clones that can cause autoimmunity. Because of this, regulation of GC reactions is critical to ensure high affinity antibody production and to enforce self-tolerance by avoiding emergence of autoreactive B cell clones. A productive GC response requires the collaboration of multiple cell types. The stromal cell network orchestrates GC cell dynamics by controlling antigen delivery and cell trafficking. T follicular helper (Tfh) cells provide specialized help to GC B cells through cognate T-B cell interactions while Foxp3 T follicular regulatory (Tfr) cells are key mediators of GC regulation. However, regulation of GC responses is not a simple outcome of Tfh/Tfr balance, but also involves the contribution of other cell types to modulate the GC microenvironment and to avoid autoimmunity. Thus, the regulation of the GC is complex, and occurs at multiple levels. In this review we outline recent developments in the biology of cell subsets involved in the regulation of GC reactions, in both secondary lymphoid tissues, and Peyer's patches (PPs). We discuss the mechanisms which enable the generation of potent protective humoral immunity whilst GC-derived autoimmunity is avoided.
The nucleopore is an essential structure of the eukaryotic cell, regulating passage between the nucleus and cytoplasm. While individual functions of core nucleopore proteins have been identified, the role of other components, such as Nup210, are poorly defined. Here, through the use of an unbiased ENU mutagenesis screen for mutations effecting the peripheral T cell compartment, we identified a Nup210 mutation in a mouse strain with altered CD4/CD8 T cell ratios. Through the generation of Nup210 knockout mice we identified Nup210 as having a T cell-intrinsic function in the peripheral homeostasis of T cells. Remarkably, despite the deep evolutionary conservation of this key nucleopore complex member, no other major phenotypes developed, with viable and healthy knockout mice. These results identify Nup210 as an important nucleopore complex component for peripheral T cells, and raise further questions of why this nucleopore component shows deep evolutionary conservation despite seemingly redundant functions in most cell types.
Antibody-mediated immunity is highly protective against disease. The majority of current vaccines confer protection through humoral immunity, but there is high variability in responsiveness across populations. Identifying immune mechanisms that mediate low antibody responsiveness may provide potential strategies to boost vaccine efficacy. Here, we report diverse antibody responsiveness to unadjuvanted as well as adjuvanted immunization in substrains of BALB/c mice, resulting in high and low antibody response phenotypes. Furthermore, these antibody phenotypes were not affected by changes in environmental factors such as the gut microbiota composition. Antigen-specific B cells following immunization had a marked difference in capability to class-switch, resulting in perturbed IgG isotype antibody production. In vitro, a B cell intrinsic defect in the regulation of class-switch recombination was identified in mice with low IgG antibody production. Whole genome sequencing identified polymorphisms associated with the magnitude of antibody produced, and we propose candidate genes that may regulate isotype class-switching capability. This study highlights that mice sourced from different vendors can have significantly altered humoral immune response profiles, and provides a resource to interrogate genetic regulators of antibody responsiveness. Together these results further our understanding of immune heterogeneity and suggest additional research on the genetic influences of adjuvanted vaccine strategies is warranted for enhancing vaccine efficacy. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
T follicular helper (Tfh) cells are key players in the production of antibody-producing B cells the germinal center reaction. Therapeutic strategies targeting Tfh cells are important where antibody formation is implicated in disease, such as transplant rejection and autoimmune diseases. We investigated the impact of the immunosuppressive agent tacrolimus on human Tfh cell differentiation and function in transplant recipients.
Germinal center (GC) responses are controlled by T follicular helper (Tfh) and T follicular regulatory (Tfr) cells and are crucial for the generation of high-affinity antibodies. Although the biology of human circulating and tissue Tfh cells has been established, the relationship between blood and tissue Tfr cells defined as CXCR5(+)Foxp3(+) T cells remains elusive. We found that blood Tfr cells are increased in Sjögren syndrome, an autoimmune disease with ongoing GC reactions, especially in patients with high autoantibody titers, as well as in healthy individuals upon influenza vaccination. Although blood Tfr cells correlated with humoral responses, they lack full B cell-suppressive capacity, despite being able to suppress T cell proliferation. Blood Tfr cells have a naïve-like phenotype, although they are absent from human thymus or cord blood. We found that these cells were generated in peripheral lymphoid tissues before T-B interaction, as they are maintained in B cell-deficient patients. Therefore, blood CXCR5(+)Foxp3(+) T cells in human pathology indicate ongoing humoral activity but are not fully competent circulating Tfr cells.
T follicular helper (TFH) cells are a distinct type of CD4+ T cell specialized in providing help to B cells during the germinal center (GC) reaction. As such, they are critical determinants of the quality of an antibody response following antigen challenge. Excessive production of TFH cells can result in autoimmunity whilst too few can result in inadequate protection from infection. Hence, their differentiation and maintenance must be tightly regulated to ensure appropriate, but limited, help to B cells. Unlike the majority of other CD4+ T cell subsets, TFH cell differentiation occurs in three phases defined by their anatomical location. During each phase of differentiation the emerging TFH cells express distinct patterns of coreceptors which work together with the T cell receptor (TCR) to drive TFH differentiation. These signals provided by both TCR and coreceptors during TFH differentiation alter proliferation, survival, metabolism, cytokine production and transcription factor expression. This review will discuss how engagement of TCR and coreceptors work together to shape the formation and function of TFH cells. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Follicular regulatory T cells are a subset of Foxp3(+) regulatory T cells that migrate into the B cell follicle after infection or immunization and modulate the germinal center response. The anatomical positioning of follicular regulatory T cells within the germinal center is a defining characteristic of this subset of regulatory T cells; because of this, it is critical that studies of follicular regulatory T cells are able to identify them in situ. In this chapter we describe an immunofluorescence staining method to visualize follicular regulatory T cells in frozen secondary lymphoid tissue sections by confocal imaging.
The intronic microRNA (miR)-342 has been proposed as a potent tumor-suppressor gene. miR-342 is found to be downregulated or epigenetically silenced in multiple different tumor sites, and this loss of expression permits the upregulation of several key oncogenic pathways. In several different cell lines, lower miR-342 expression results in enhanced proliferation and metastasis potential, both in vitro and in xenogenic transplant conditions. Here, we sought to determine the function of miR-342 in an in vivo spontaneous cancer model, using the Ela1-TAg transgenic model of pancreatic acinar carcinoma. Through longitudinal magnetic resonance imaging monitoring of Ela1-TAg transgenic mice, either wild-type or knockout for miR-342, we found no role for miR-342 in the development, growth rate, or pathogenicity of pancreatic acinar carcinoma. These results indicate the importance of assessing miR function in the complex physiology of in vivo model systems and indicate that further functional testing of miR-342 is required before concluding it is a bona fide tumor-suppressor-miR.
Treatments to limit T cell activation are essential for managing autoimmune and inflammatory disorders. The B subunit of Escherichia coli heat-labile enterotoxin (EtxB) is known to ameliorate inflammatory disease in vivo but the mechanism by which this is mediated is not well understood. Here, we show that following intranasal administration, EtxB acts on two key cellular regulators of T cell activation: regulatory T cells and dendritic cells (DCs). EtxB enhances the proliferation of lung regulatory T cells and doubles their suppressive function, likely through an increase in expression of the Treg effector molecule CTLA-4. EtxB supports the generation of interleukin-10-producing DCs that are unable to activate T cells. These data show, for the first time, that mucosal EtxB treatment limits T cells activation by acting jointly on two distinct types of immune cells.
The transcriptional programs that guide lymphocyte differentiation depend on the precise expression and timing of transcription factors (TFs). The TF BACH2 is essential for T and B lymphocytes and is associated with an archetypal super-enhancer (SE). Single-nucleotide variants in the BACH2 locus are associated with several autoimmune diseases, but BACH2 mutations that cause Mendelian monogenic primary immunodeficiency have not previously been identified. Here we describe a syndrome of BACH2-related immunodeficiency and autoimmunity (BRIDA) that results from BACH2 haploinsufficiency. Affected subjects had lymphocyte-maturation defects that caused immunoglobulin deficiency and intestinal inflammation. The mutations disrupted protein stability by interfering with homodimerization or by causing aggregation. We observed analogous lymphocyte defects in Bach2-heterozygous mice. More generally, we observed that genes that cause monogenic haploinsufficient diseases were substantially enriched for TFs and SE architecture. These findings reveal a previously unrecognized feature of SE architecture in Mendelian diseases of immunity: heterozygous mutations in SE-regulated genes identified by whole-exome/genome sequencing may have greater significance than previously recognized.
Secondary lymphoid organs are organized into distinct zones, governed by different types of mesenchymal stromal cells. These stromal cell subsets are critical for the generation of protective humoral immunity because they direct the migration of, and interaction between, multiple immune cell types to form the germinal centre. The germinal centre response generates long-lived antibody-secreting plasma cells and memory B cells which can provide long-term protection against re-infection. Stromal cell subsets mediate this response through control of immune cell trafficking, activation, localization and antigen access within the secondary lymphoid organ. Further, distinct populations of stromal cells underpin the delicate spatial organization of immune cells within the germinal centre. Because of this, the interactions between immune cells and stromal cells in secondary lymphoid organs are fundamental to the germinal centre response. Herein we review how this unique relationship leads to effective germinal centre responses.
MicroRNA (miR) are short non-coding RNA sequences of 19-24 nucleotides that regulate gene expression by binding to mRNA target sequences. The miR-29 family of miR (miR-29a, b-1, b-2 and c) is a key player in T-cell differentiation and effector function, with deficiency causing thymic involution and a more inflammatory T-cell profile. However, the relative roles of different miR-29 family members in these processes have not been dissected. We studied the immunological role of the individual members of the miR-29 family using mice deficient for miR-29a/b-1 or miR-29b-2/c in homeostasis and during collagen-induced arthritis. We found a definitive hierarchy of immunological function, with the strong phenotype of miR-29a-deficiency in thymic involution and T-cell activation being reduced or absent in miR-29c-deficient mice. Strikingly, despite elevating the Th1 and Th17 responses, loss of miR-29a conferred near-complete protection from collagen-induced arthritis (CIA), with profound defects in B-cell proliferation and antibody production. Our results identify the hierarchical structure of the miR-29 family in T-cell biology, and identify miR-29a in B cells as a potential therapeutic target in arthritis.
Immune responses demonstrate a high level of intra-species variation, compensating for the specialization capacity of pathogens. The recent advent of in-depth immune phenotyping projects in large-scale cohorts has allowed a first look into the factors that shape the inter-individual diversity of the human immune system. Genetic approaches have identified genetic diversity as drivers of 20-40% of the variation between the immune systems of individuals. The remaining 60-80% is shaped by intrinsic factors, with age being the predominant factor, as well as by environmental influences, where cohabitation and chronic viral infections were identified as key mediators. We review and integrate the recent in-depth large-scale studies on human immune diversity and its potential impact on health. VIDEO ABSTRACT.
Type 1 (T1D) and type 2 (T2D) diabetes share pathophysiological characteristics, yet mechanistic links have remained elusive. T1D results from autoimmune destruction of pancreatic beta cells, whereas beta cell failure in T2D is delayed and progressive. Here we find a new genetic component of diabetes susceptibility in T1D non-obese diabetic (NOD) mice, identifying immune-independent beta cell fragility. Genetic variation in Xrcc4 and Glis3 alters the response of NOD beta cells to unfolded protein stress, enhancing the apoptotic and senescent fates. The same transcriptional relationships were observed in human islets, demonstrating the role of beta cell fragility in genetic predisposition to diabetes.
The success of most vaccines relies on the generation of antibodies to provide protection against subsequent infection; this in turn depends on a robust germinal centre (GC) response that culminates in the production of long-lived antibody-secreting plasma cells. The size and quality of the GC response are directed by a specialised subset of CD4 (+) T cells: T follicular helper (Tfh) cells. Tfh cells provide growth and differentiation signals to GC B cells and mediate positive selection of high-affinity B cell clones in the GC, thereby determining which B cells exit the GC as plasma cells and memory B cells. Because of their central role in the production of long-lasting humoral immunity, Tfh cells represent an interesting target for rational vaccine design.
Although T cell help for B cells was described several decades ago, it was the identification of CXCR5 expression by B follicular helper T (Tfh) cells and the subsequent discovery of their dependence on BCL6, that led to the recognition of Tfh cells as an independent helper subset and accelerated the pace of discovery. More than 20 transcription factors, together with RNAbinding proteins and microRNAs, control the expression of chemotactic receptors and molecules important for the function and homeostasis of Tfh cells. Tfh cells prime B cells to initiate extrafollicular and germinal center antibody responses and are crucial for affinity maturation and maintenance of humoral memory. In addition to the roles that Tfh cells have in antimicrobial defense, cancer, and as HIV reservoirs, regulation of these cells is critical to prevent autoimmunity. The realization that follicular T cells are heterogeneous, comprising helper and regulatory subsets, has raised questions regarding a possible division of labor in germinal center B cell selection and elimination. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Immunology Volume 34 is May 20, 2016. Please see http://www.annualreviews.org/catalog/pubdates.aspx for revised estimates.
Detailed population-level description of the human immune system has recently become achievable. We used a 'systems-level' approach to establish a resource of cellular immune profiles of 670 healthy individuals. We report a high level of interindividual variation, with low longitudinal variation, at the level of cellular subset composition of the immune system. Despite the profound effects of antigen exposure on individual antigen-specific clones, the cellular subset structure proved highly elastic, with transient vaccination-induced changes followed by a return to the individual's unique baseline. Notably, the largest influence on immunological variation identified was cohabitation, with 50% less immunological variation between individuals who share an environment (as parents) than between people in the wider population. These results identify local environmental conditions as a key factor in shaping the human immune system.
T follicular regulatory (Tfr) cells are a subset of Foxp3(+) regulatory T (Treg) cells that form in response to immunization or infection, which localize to the germinal centre where they control the magnitude of the response. Despite an increased interest in the role of Tfr cells in humoral immunity, many fundamental aspects of their biology remain unknown, including whether they recognize self- or foreign antigen. Here we show that Tfr cells can be specific for the immunizing antigen, irrespective of whether it is a self- or foreign antigen. We show that, in addition to developing from thymic derived Treg cells, Tfr cells can also arise from Foxp3(-) precursors in a PD-L1-dependent manner, if the adjuvant used is one that supports T-cell plasticity. These findings have important implications for Tfr cell biology and for improving vaccine efficacy by formulating vaccines that modify the Tfr:Tfh cell ratio.
The thymus is the organ devoted to T-cell production. The thymus undergoes multiple rounds of atrophy and redevelopment before degenerating with age in a process known as involution. This process is poorly understood, despite the influence the phenomenon has on peripheral T-cell numbers. Here we have investigated the FVB/N mouse strain, which displays premature thymic involution. We find multiple architectural and cellular features that precede thymic involution, including disruption of the epithelial-endothelial relationship and a progressive loss of pro-T cells. The architectural features, reminiscent of the human thymus, are intrinsic to the non-hematopoietic compartment and are neither necessary nor sufficient for thymic involution. By contrast, the loss of pro-T cells is intrinsic to the hematopoietic compartment, and is sufficient to drive premature involution. These results identify pro-T-cell loss as the main driver of premature thymic involution, and highlight the plasticity of the thymic stroma, capable of maintaining function across diverse inter-strain architectures. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Germinal centres (GCs) are specialised lymphoid microenvironments that form in secondary B-cell follicles upon exposure to T-dependent antigens. In the GC, clonal expansion, selection and differentiation of GC B cells result in the production of high-affinity plasma cells and memory B cells that provide protection against subsequent infection. The GC is carefully regulated to fulfil its critical role in defence against infection and to ensure that immunological tolerance is not broken in the process. The GC response can be controlled by a number of mechanisms, one of which is by forkhead box p3 expressing regulatory T (Treg) cells, a suppressive population of CD4+ T cells. A specialised subset of Treg cells - follicular regulatory T (Tfr) cells - form after immunisation and are able to access the GC, where they control the size and output of the response. Our knowledge of Treg cell control of the GC is expanding. In this review we will discuss recent advances in the field, with a particular emphasis on the differentiation and function of Tfr cells in the GC.
Costimulatory signals by CD28 are critical for thymic regulatory T-cell (Treg) development. To determine the functional relevance of CD28 for peripheral Treg post thymic selection, we crossed the widely used Forkhead box protein 3 (Foxp3)-CreYFP mice to mice bearing a conditional Cd28 allele. Treg-specific CD28 deficiency provoked a severe autoimmune syndrome as a result of a strong disadvantage in competitive fitness and proliferation of CD28-deficient Tregs. By contrast, Treg survival and lineage integrity were not affected by the lack of CD28. This data demonstrate that, even after the initial induction requirement, Treg maintain a higher dependency on CD28 signalling than conventional T cells for homeostasis. In addition, we found the Foxp3-CreYFP allele to be a hypomorph, with reduced Foxp3 protein levels. Furthermore, we report here the stochastic activity of the Foxp3-CreYFP allele in non-Tregs, sufficient to recombine some conditional alleles (including Cd28) but not others (including R26-RFP). This hypomorphism and 'leaky' expression of the Foxp3-CreYFP allele should be considered when analysing the conditionally mutated Treg.Immunology and Cell Biology advance online publication, 23 December 2014; doi:10.1038/icb.2014.108.
The mechanism by which regulatory T cells control the germinal center response is unknown. In this issue of Immunity, Wing et al. (2014) and Sage et al. (2014) demonstrate that CTLA-4 is a critical effector molecule used by regulatory T cells to control the germinal center.
The co-stimulatory molecule CD28 is essential for activation of helper T cells. Despite this critical role, it is not known whether CD28 has functions in maintaining T cell responses following activation. To determine the role for CD28 after T cell priming, we generated a strain of mice where CD28 is removed from CD4(+) T cells after priming. We show that continued CD28 expression is important for effector CD4(+) T cells following infection; maintained CD28 is required for the expansion of T helper type 1 cells, and for the differentiation and maintenance of T follicular helper cells during viral infection. Persistent CD28 is also required for clearance of the bacterium Citrobacter rodentium from the gastrointestinal tract. Together, this study demonstrates that CD28 persistence is required for helper T cell polarization in response to infection, describing a novel function for CD28 that is distinct from its role in T cell priming.
Barrier sites such as the gastrointestinal tract are in constant contact with the environment, which contains both beneficial and harmful components. The immune system at the epithelia must make the distinction between these components to balance tolerance, protection, and immunopathology. This is achieved via multifaceted immune recognition, highly organized lymphoid structures, and the interaction of many types of immune cells. The adaptive immune response in the gut is orchestrated by CD4(+) helper T (Th) cells, which are integral to gut immunity. In recent years, it has become apparent that the functional identity of these Th cells is not as fixed as initially thought. Plasticity in differentiated T cell subsets has now been firmly established, in both health and disease. The gut, in particular, utilizes CD4(+) T cell plasticity to mold CD4(+) T cell phenotypes to maintain its finely poised balance of tolerance and inflammation and to encourage biodiversity within the enteric microbiome. In this review, we will discuss intestinal helper T cell plasticity and our current understanding of its mechanisms, including our growing knowledge of an evolutionarily ancient symbiosis between microbiota and malleable CD4(+) T cell effectors.
The monoclonal anti-CD20 antibody rituximab (RTX) depletes B cells in the treatment of lymphoma and autoimmune disease, and contributes to alloantibody reduction in transplantation across immunologic barriers. The effects of RTX on T cells are less well described. T-follicular helper (Tfh) cells provide growth and differentiation signals to germinal center (GC) B cells to support antibody production, and suppressive T-follicular regulatory (Tfr) cells regulate this response. In mice, both Tfh and Tfr are absolutely dependent on B cells for their formation and on the GC for their maintenance. In this study, we demonstrate that RTX treatment results in a lack of GC B cells in human lymph nodes without affecting the Tfh or Tfr cell populations. These data demonstrate that human Tfh and Tfr do not require an ongoing GC response for their maintenance. The persistence of Tfh and Tfr following RTX treatment may permit rapid reconstitution of the pathological GC response once the B-cell pool begins to recover. Strategies for maintaining remission after RTX therapy will need to take this persistence of Tfh into account.
Fibroblastic reticular cells (FRCs), through their expression of CC chemokine ligand (CCL)19 and CCL21, attract and retain T cells in lymph nodes (LNs), but whether this function applies to both resting and activated T cells has not been examined. Here we describe a model for conditionally depleting FRCs from LNs based on their expression of the diphtheria toxin receptor (DTR) directed by the gene encoding fibroblast activation protein-α (FAP). As expected, depleting FAP(+) FRCs causes the loss of naïve T cells, B cells, and dendritic cells from LNs, and this loss decreases the magnitude of the B- and T-cell responses to a subsequent infection with influenza A virus. In contrast, depleting FAP(+) FRCs during an ongoing influenza infection does not diminish the number or continued response of activated T and B cells in the draining LNs, despite still resulting in the loss of naïve T cells. Therefore, different rules govern the LN trafficking of resting and activated T cells; once a T cell is engaged in antigen-specific clonal expansion, its retention no longer depends on FRCs or their chemokines, CCL19 and CCL21. Our findings suggest that activated T cells remain in the LN because they down-regulate the expression of the sphingosine-1 phosphate receptor-1, which mediates the exit of lymphocytes from secondary lymphoid organs. Therefore, LN retention of naïve lymphocytes and the initiation of an immune response depend on FRCs, but is an FRC independent and possibly cell-autonomous response of activated T cells, which allows the magnitude of clonal expansion to determine LN egress.
Normal ageing is accompanied by a decline in the function of the immune system that causes an increased susceptibility to infections and an impaired response to vaccination in older individuals. This results in an increased disease burden in the aged population, even with good immunisation programmes in place. The decreased response to vaccination is partly due to the diminution of the germinal centre response with age, caused by impaired T-cell help to B cells. Within the germinal centre, T-cell help is provided by a specialised subset of CD4(+) T cells; T follicular helper (Tfh) cells. Tfh cells provide survival and selection signals to germinal centre B cells, allowing them to egress from the germinal centre and become long-live plasma cells or memory B cells, and provide life-long protection against subsequent infection. This review will discuss the cellular and molecular changes in both Tfh cells and germinal centre B cells that occur with advancing age, which result in a smaller germinal centre response and a less effective response to immunisation.
The clinical course and eventual outcome, or prognosis, of complex diseases varies enormously between affected individuals. This variability critically determines the impact a disease has on a patient's life but is very poorly understood. Here, we exploit existing genome-wide association study data to gain insight into the role of genetics in prognosis. We identify a noncoding polymorphism in FOXO3A (rs12212067: T > G) at which the minor (G) allele, despite not being associated with disease susceptibility, is associated with a milder course of Crohn's disease and rheumatoid arthritis and with increased risk of severe malaria. Minor allele carriage is shown to limit inflammatory responses in monocytes via a FOXO3-driven pathway, which through TGFβ1 reduces production of proinflammatory cytokines, including TNFα, and increases production of anti-inflammatory cytokines, including IL-10. Thus, we uncover a shared genetic contribution to prognosis in distinct diseases that operates via a FOXO3-driven pathway modulating inflammatory responses.
MicroRNAs are short, 19-24 nucleotide long, RNA molecules capable of regulating the longevity and, to a lesser extent, translation of messenger RNA (mRNA) species. The function of the microRNA network, and indeed, even that of individual microRNA species, can have profoundly different roles in even a single cell type as the microRNA/mRNA composition evolves. As the role of microRNA within T cells has come under increasing scrutiny, several distinct checkpoints have been demonstrated to have a particular reliance on microRNA regulation. MicroRNAs are arguably most important in T cells during the earliest and last stages in T-cell biology. The first stages of early thymic differentiation have a crucial reliance on the microRNA network, while later stages and peripheral homeostasis are largely, although not completely, microRNA-independent. The most profound effects on T cells are in the activation of effector and regulatory functions of conventional and regulatory T cells, where microRNA deficiency results in a near-complete loss of function. In this review, we focus on integrating the research on individual microRNA into a more global understanding of the function of the microRNA regulatory network in T cells.
Human and mouse studies performed over the last decade have established that follicular helper T (Tfh) cells are a CD4(+) helper subset specialized in the provision of help to B cells. Tfh differentiation is driven by expression of the transcriptional repressor B-cell lymphoma-6 (Bcl-6), which turns on a program that guides T cells close to B-cell areas where Tfh cells first provide help to B cells. Sustained Bcl-6 expression promotes the entry of Tfh cells into follicles and modulates their cytokine expression profile so they can support and select germinal center B cells that have acquired affinity-enhancing mutations in their immunoglobulin genes. Forkhead box 3 protein (Foxp3)(+) regulatory T cells and invariant natural killer T (NKT) cells can also co-opt the Bcl-6-dependent follicular differentiation pathway to migrate into B-cell follicles and regulate antibody responses. The resulting NKT follicular helper cells drive a distinctive type of T-dependent B-cell response to lipid-containing antigens, whereas FoxP3(+) follicular regulatory (Tfr) cells exert a suppressive function on germinal centers. Elucidating how Tfr cells are functionally and numerically regulated and the factors that control the balance between Tfh and Tfr cells is likely to be critical for improved understanding of the pathogenesis and progression of autoimmunity and lymphomas of germinal center origin, and generation of effective vaccines.
Thymic output is a dynamic process, with high activity at birth punctuated by transient periods of involution during infection. Interferon-α (IFN-α) is a critical molecular mediator of pathogen-induced thymic involution, yet despite the importance of thymic involution, relatively little is known about the molecular integrators that establish sensitivity. Here we found that the microRNA network dependent on the endoribonuclease Dicer, and specifically microRNA miR-29a, was critical for diminishing the sensitivity of the thymic epithelium to simulated infection signals, protecting the thymus against inappropriate involution. In the absence of Dicer or the miR-29a cluster in the thymic epithelium, expression of the IFN-α receptor by the thymic epithelium was higher, which allowed suboptimal signals to trigger rapid loss of thymic cellularity.
Follicular helper (T(FH)) cells provide crucial signals to germinal center B cells undergoing somatic hypermutation and selection that results in affinity maturation. Tight control of T(FH) numbers maintains self tolerance. We describe a population of Foxp3(+)Blimp-1(+)CD4(+) T cells constituting 10-25% of the CXCR5(high)PD-1(high)CD4(+) T cells found in the germinal center after immunization with protein antigens. These follicular regulatory T (T(FR)) cells share phenotypic characteristics with T(FH) and conventional Foxp3(+) regulatory T (T(reg)) cells yet are distinct from both. Similar to T(FH) cells, T(FR) cell development depends on Bcl-6, SLAM-associated protein (SAP), CD28 and B cells; however, T(FR) cells originate from thymic-derived Foxp3(+) precursors, not naive or T(FH) cells. T(FR) cells are suppressive in vitro and limit T(FH) cell and germinal center B cell numbers in vivo. In the absence of T(FR) cells, an outgrowth of non-antigen-specific B cells in germinal centers leads to fewer antigen-specific cells. Thus, the T(FH) differentiation pathway is co-opted by T(reg) cells to control the germinal center response.
Helper T cells are required for the generation of a potent immune response to foreign antigens. Amongst them, T follicular helper (Tfh) cells are specialized in promoting protective, long-lived antibody responses that arise from germinal centers. Within these structures, the specificity of B cell receptors may change, due to the process of random somatic hypermutation aimed at increasing the overall affinity of the antibody response. The danger of emerging self-reactive specificities is offset by a stringent selection mechanism delegated in great part to Tfh cells. Only those B cells receiving survival signals from Tfh cells can exit the germinal centers to join the long-lived pools of memory B cells and bone marrow-homing plasma cells. Thus, a crucial immune tolerance checkpoint to prevent long-term autoantibody production lies in the ability to tolerize Tfh cells and to control positive and negative selection signals delivered by this subset. This review tackles the known mechanisms that ensure Tfh tolerance, many of them shared by other T helper subsets during thymic development and priming, but others unique to Tfh cells. Amongst the latter are checkpoints at the stages of Tfh differentiation, follicular migration, growth, longevity, and quality control of selection signals. Finally, we also discuss the consequences of a breakdown in Tfh tolerance.
Germinal centers (GCs) are specialized microenvironments formed after infection where activated B cells can mutate their B-cell receptors to undergo affinity maturation. A stringent process of selection allows high affinity, non-self-reactive B cells to become long-lived memory B cells and plasma cells. While the precise mechanism of selection is still poorly understood, the last decade has advanced our understanding of the role of T cells and follicular dendritic cells (FDCs) in GC B-cell formation and selection. T cells and non-T-cell-derived CD40 ligands on FDCs are essential for T-dependent (TD) and T-independent GC formation, respectively. TD-GC formation requires Bcl-6-expressing T cells capable of signaling through SAP, which promotes formation of stable T:B conjugates. By contrast, differentiation of B blasts along the extrafollicular pathway is less dependent on SAP. T-follicular helper (Tfh) cell-derived CD40L, interleukin-21, and interleukin-4 play important roles in GC B-cell proliferation, survival, and affinity maturation. A role for FDC-derived integrin signals has also emerged: GC B cells capable of forming an immune synapse with FDCs have a survival advantage. This emerges as a powerful mechanism to ensure death of B cells that bind self-reactive antigen, which would not normally be presented on FDCs.
MicroRNA are emerging as key regulators of the development and function of adaptive immunity. These 19-24 nucleotide regulatory RNA molecules have essential roles in multiple faucets of adaptive immunity, from regulating the development of the key cellular players to the activation and function in immune responses.
During T cell-dependent responses, B cells can either differentiate extrafollicularly into short-lived plasma cells or enter follicles to form germinal centers (GCs). Interactions with T follicular helper (Tfh) cells are required for GC formation and for selection of somatically mutated GC B cells. Interleukin (IL)-21 has been reported to play a role in Tfh cell formation and in B cell growth, survival, and isotype switching. To date, it is unclear whether the effect of IL-21 on GC formation is predominantly a consequence of this cytokine acting directly on the Tfh cells or if IL-21 directly influences GC B cells. We show that IL-21 acts in a B cell-intrinsic fashion to control GC B cell formation. Mixed bone marrow chimeras identified a significant B cell-autonomous effect of IL-21 receptor (R) signaling throughout all stages of the GC response. IL-21 deficiency profoundly impaired affinity maturation and reduced the proportion of IgG1(+) GC B cells but did not affect formation of early memory B cells. IL-21R was required on GC B cells for maximal expression of Bcl-6. In contrast to the requirement for IL-21 in the follicular response to sheep red blood cells, a purely extrafollicular antibody response to Salmonella dominated by IgG2a was intact in the absence of IL-21.
Follicular helper T cells have recently emerged as a separate CD4(+) T helper lineage specialised in provision of help to B cells. They develop independently from Th1, Th2 and Th17 cells and are critical for humoral immunity, including the generation of long-lived and high affinity plasma cells and memory cells crucial for long-term protection against infections. A stepwise differentiation programme has emerged in which T cell receptor (TCR) signalling strength, CD28-mediated costimulation, B cell-derived inducible costimulator ligand signals, induction of c-maf and actions of cytokines, including interleukin (IL)-6 and IL-21, lead to upregulation of the transcriptional repressor B cell lymphoma 6 (Bcl-6) that drives T follicular helper (Tfh) cell differentiation. Bcl-6 turns on a repression programme that targets Blimp-1, transcriptional regulators of other helper lineages and microRNAs. Their concerted actions modulate expression of chemokine receptors, surface molecules and cytokines critical for follicular homing and B cell helper functions. Here, we review the nature of Tfh cells providing help to B cells during the two phases of B cell activation that occur in the outer T zone and, for some B cells, in germinal centres (GC). Recent insights into the signalling events that drive terminal differentiation of Tfh cells critical for selecting somatically mutated GC B cells and the consequences of Tfh dysregulation for immunodeficiency and autoimmune pathology are discussed.
Follicular helper T (Tfh) cells provide selection signals to germinal center B cells, which is essential for long-lived antibody responses. High CXCR5 and low CCR7 expression facilitates their homing to B cell follicles and distinguishes them from T helper 1 (Th1), Th2, and Th17 cells. Here, we showed that Bcl-6 directs Tfh cell differentiation: Bcl-6-deficient T cells failed to develop into Tfh cells and could not sustain germinal center responses, whereas forced expression of Bcl-6 in CD4(+) T cells promoted expression of the hallmark Tfh cell molecules CXCR5, CXCR4, and PD-1. Bcl-6 bound to the promoters of the Th1 and Th17 cell transcriptional regulators T-bet and RORgammat and repressed IFN-gamma and IL-17 production. Bcl-6 also repressed expression of many microRNAs (miRNAs) predicted to control the Tfh cell signature, including miR-17-92, which repressed CXCR5 expression. Thus, Bcl-6 positively directs Tfh cell differentiation, through combined repression of miRNAs and transcription factors.
Production of high-affinity pathogenic autoantibodies appears to be central to the pathogenesis of lupus. Because normal high-affinity antibodies arise from germinal centers (GCs), aberrant selection of GC B cells, caused by either failure of negative selection or enhanced positive selection by follicular helper T (T(FH)) cells, is a plausible explanation for these autoantibodies. Mice homozygous for the san allele of Roquin, which encodes a RING-type ubiquitin ligase, develop GCs in the absence of foreign antigen, excessive T(FH) cell numbers, and features of lupus. We postulated a positive selection defect in GCs to account for autoantibodies. We first demonstrate that autoimmunity in Roquin(san/san) (sanroque) mice is GC dependent: deletion of one allele of Bcl6 specifically reduces the number of GC cells, ameliorating pathology. We show that Roquin(san) acts autonomously to cause accumulation of T(FH) cells. Introduction of a null allele of the signaling lymphocyte activation molecule family adaptor Sap into the sanroque background resulted in a substantial and selective reduction in sanroque T(FH) cells, and abrogated formation of GCs, autoantibody formation, and renal pathology. In contrast, adoptive transfer of sanroque T(FH) cells led to spontaneous GC formation. These findings identify T(FH) dysfunction within GCs and aberrant positive selection as a pathway to systemic autoimmunity.
During evolutionary adaptation in the immune system, host defense is traded off against autoreactivity. Signals through the costimulatory receptor CD28 enable T cells to respond specifically to pathogens, whereas those through the related costimulatory receptor, ICOS, which arose by gene duplication, are critical for affinity maturation and memory antibody responses. ICOS ligand, unlike the pathogen-inducible CD28 ligands, is widely and constitutively expressed in the immune system. Here, we show that crosstalk between these two pathways provides a mechanism for obviating the normal T cell dependence on CD28. Several CD28-mediated responses-generation of follicular helper T cells, germinal center formation, T helper 1 cell-dependent extrafollicular antibody responses to Salmonella and bacterial clearance, and regulatory T cell homeostasis-became independent of CD28 and dependent on ICOS when the E3 ubiquitin ligase Roquin was mutated. Mechanisms to functionally compartmentalize ICOS and CD28 signals are thus critical for two-signal control of normal immune reactions.