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J Immunol. 2011 Nov 1;187(9):4553-60. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1101328. Epub 2011 Oct 7.

Regulation of the germinal center reaction by Foxp3+ follicular regulatory T cells.

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Instituto de Medicina Molecular, Faculdade de Medicina, Universidade de Lisboa, P1649-028 Lisbon, Portugal.


Follicular helper T (T(FH)) cells participate in humoral responses providing selection signals to germinal center B cells. Recently, expression of CXCR5, PD-1, and the transcription factor Bcl-6 has allowed the identification of T(FH) cells. We found that a proportion of follicular T cells, with phenotypic characteristics of T(FH) cells and expressing Foxp3, are recruited during the course of a germinal center (GC) reaction. These Foxp3(+) cells derive from natural regulatory T cells. To establish the in vivo physiologic importance of Foxp3(+) follicular T cells, we used CXCR5-deficient Foxp3(+) cells, which do not have access to the follicular region. Adoptive cell transfers of CXCR5-deficient Foxp3(+) cells have shown that Foxp3(+) follicular T cells are important regulators of the GC reaction following immunization with a thymus-dependent Ag. Our in vivo data show that Foxp3(+) follicular T cells can limit the magnitude of the GC reaction and also the amount of secreted Ag-specific IgM, IgG1, IgG2b, and IgA. Therefore, Foxp3(+) follicular regulatory T cells appear to combine characteristics of T(FH) and regulatory T cells for the control of humoral immune responses.

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