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Cell Death Differ. 2013 Dec;20(12):1731-41. doi: 10.1038/cdd.2013.130. Epub 2013 Sep 27.

A novel subset of helper T cells promotes immune responses by secreting GM-CSF.

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  • 11] Child Health Institute of New Jersey, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA [2] Department of Molecular Genetics, Microbiology and Immunology, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ, USA.


Helper T cells are crucial for maintaining proper immune responses. Yet, they have an undefined relationship with one of the most potent immune stimulatory cytokines, granulocyte macrophage-colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF). By depleting major cytokines during the differentiation of CD4(+) T cells in vitro, we derived cells that were found to produce large amounts of GM-CSF, but little of the cytokines produced by other helper T subsets. By their secretion of GM-CSF, this novel subset of helper T cells (which we have termed ThGM cells) promoted the production of cytokines by other T-cell subtypes, including type 1 helper T cell (Th1), type 2 helper T cell (Th2), type 1 cytotoxic T cell (Tc1), type 2 cytotoxic T cell (Tc2), and naive T cells, as evidenced by the fact that antibody neutralization of GM-CSF abolished this effect. ThGM cells were found to be highly prone to activation-induced cell death (AICD). Inhibitors of TRAIL or granzymes could not block AICD in ThGM cells, whereas inhibition of FasL/Fas interaction partially rescued ThGM cells from AICD. Thus, ThGM cells are a novel subpopulation of T helper cells that produce abundant GM-CSF, exhibit exquisite susceptibility to apoptosis, and therefore play a pivotal role in the regulation of the early stages of immune responses.

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