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PLoS One. 2012;7(11):e49715. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0049715. Epub 2012 Nov 16.

Th17 effector cells support B cell responses outside of germinal centres.

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Institute of Immunology, Infection and Inflammation, Glasgow Biomedical Research Centre, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom.


Th17 cells are pro-inflammatory CD4⁺T cells, which are important in immune responses against fungal pathogens and extracellular bacteria and have also been implicated in various autoimmune syndromes. However, their role in supporting B cell responses in these scenarios remains unclear, representing a significant lapse in our understanding of the role Th17 play in vaccine responses and the regulation of autoimmunity. We employed T cell and B cell receptor transgenic mice specific for model antigens, and adoptive transfer approaches that allowed the tracking of cognate B and T cells in situ and ex vivo using immunological methods. We have found that T cells activated under Th17 polarising conditions have a greater capacity to provide cognate B cell help compared with Th1 polarised populations, supporting higher expansion of antigen specific B cells and enhanced antibody titres. This advantage is associated with the increased persistence of Th17 polarised cells in areas of the lymph nodes where they can provide help (i.e. the B cell follicles). Also the Th17 cells are characterised by their higher expression of ICOS, a costimulatory molecule important for B cell help. Surprisingly, contrary to published reports, Th17 cells were not detected inside germinal centres, although they were found in close proximity to cognate B cells in the follicle early in the genesis of the humoral immune response. These data indicate that, Th17 cells have a more significant role earlier in the initiation/development of the germinal centre response and/or germinal centre-independent events, consistent with their early effector status.

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