Journal of immunology (Baltimore, Md. : 1950)

IL-4-secreting secondary T follicular helper (Tfh) cells arise from memory T cells, not persisting Tfh cells, through a B cell-dependent mechanism.

PMID 25712216


Humoral immunity requires cross-talk between T follicular helper (Tfh) cells and B cells. Nevertheless, a detailed understanding of this intercellular interaction during secondary immune responses is lacking. We examined this by focusing on the response to a soluble, unadjuvanted, pathogen-derived Ag (soluble extract of Schistosoma mansoni egg [SEA]) that induces type 2 immunity. We found that activated Tfh cells persisted for long periods within germinal centers following primary immunization. However, the magnitude of the secondary response did not appear to depend on pre-existing Tfh cells. Instead, Tfh cell populations expanded through a process that was dependent on memory T cells recruited into the reactive LN, as well as the participation of B cells. We found that, during the secondary response, IL-4 was critical for the expansion of a population of plasmablasts that correlated with increased SEA-specific IgG1 titers. Additionally, following immunization with SEA (but not with an Ag that induced type 1 immunity), IL-4 and IL-21 were coproduced by individual Tfh cells, revealing a potential mechanism through which appropriate class-switching can be coupled to plasmablast proliferation to enforce type 2 immunity. Our findings demonstrate a pivotal role for IL-4 in the interplay between T and B cells during a secondary Th2 response and have significant implications for vaccine design.