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PLoS One. 2011 Mar 14;6(3):e17739. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0017739.

IL-21 and IL-6 are critical for different aspects of B cell immunity and redundantly induce optimal follicular helper CD4 T cell (Tfh) differentiation.

Author information

1
Division of Vaccine Discovery, La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology, La Jolla, California, United States of America.

Abstract

Cytokines are important modulators of lymphocytes, and both interleukin-21 (IL-21) and IL-6 have proposed roles in T follicular helper (Tfh) differentiation, and directly act on B cells. Here we investigated the absence of IL-6 alone, IL-21 alone, or the combined lack of IL-6 and IL-21 on Tfh differentiation and the development of B cell immunity in vivo. C57BL/6 or IL-21(-/-) mice were treated with a neutralizing monoclonal antibody against IL-6 throughout the course of an acute viral infection (lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus, LCMV). The combined absence of IL-6 and IL-21 resulted in reduced Tfh differentiation and reduced Bcl6 protein expression. In addition, we observed that these cytokines had a large impact on antigen-specific B cell responses. IL-6 and IL-21 collaborate in the acute T-dependent antiviral antibody response (90% loss of circulating antiviral IgG in the absence of both cytokines). In contrast, we observed reduced germinal center formation only in the absence of IL-21. Absence of IL-6 had no impact on germinal centers, and combined absence of both IL-21 and IL-6 revealed no synergistic effect on germinal center B cell development. Studying CD4 T cells in vitro, we found that high IL-21 production was not associated with high Bcl6 or CXCR5 expression. TCR stimulation of purified naïve CD4 T cells in the presence of IL-6 also did not result in Tfh differentiation, as determined by Bcl6 or CXCR5 protein expression. Cumulatively, our data indicates that optimal Tfh formation requires IL-21 and IL-6, and that cytokines alone are insufficient to drive Tfh differentiation.

PMID:
21423809
PMCID:
PMC3056724
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0017739
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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