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J Immunol. 2011 Sep 15;187(6):3321-30. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1101006. Epub 2011 Aug 12.

B cells and TCR avidity determine distinct functions of CD4+ T cells in retroviral infection.

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  • 1Division of Immunoregulation, Medical Research Council National Institute for Medical Research, The Ridgeway, London NW7 1AA, United Kingdom.


The T cell-dependent B cell response relies on cognate interaction between B cells and CD4(+) Th cells. However, the consequences of this interaction for CD4(+) T cells are not entirely known. B cells generally promote CD4(+) T cell responses to pathogens, albeit to a variable degree. In contrast, CD4(+) T cell responses to self- or tumor Ags are often suppressed by B cells. In this study, we demonstrated that interaction with B cells dramatically inhibited the function of virus-specific CD4(+) T cells in retroviral infection. We have used Friend virus infection of mice as a model for retroviral infection, in which the behavior of virus-specific CD4(+) T cells was monitored according to their TCR avidity. We report that avidity for Ag and interaction with B cells determine distinct aspects of the primary CD4(+) T cell response to Friend virus infection. Virus-specific CD4(+) T cells followed exclusive Th1 and T follicular helper (Tfh) differentiation. High avidity for Ag facilitated expansion during priming and enhanced the capacity for IFN-γ and IL-21 production. In contrast, Tfh differentiation was not affected by avidity for Ag. By reducing or preventing B cell interaction, we found that B cells promoted Tfh differentiation, induced programmed death 1 expression, and inhibited IFN-γ production by virus-specific CD4(+) T cells. Ultimately, B cells protected hosts from CD4(+) T cell-mediated immune pathology, at the detriment of CD4(+) T cell-mediated protective immunity. Our results suggest that B cell presentation of vaccine Ags could be manipulated to direct the appropriate CD4(+) T cell response.

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