T cell help to B cells is a fundamental property of adaptive immunity, yet only recently have many of the cellular and molecular mechanisms of T cell help emerged. T follicular helper (Tfh) cells are the CD4(+) T helper cells that provide cognate help to B cells for high-affinity antibody production in germinal centers (GC). Tfh cells produce interleukin-21 (IL-21), and we show that IL-21 was necessary for GC formation. However, the central role of IL-21 in GC formation reflected its effects on Tfh cell generation rather than on B cells. Expression of the inducible costimulator (ICOS) was necessary for optimal production of IL-21, indicative of interplay between these two Tfh cell-expressed molecules. Finally, we demonstrate that IL-21 s costimulatory capacity for T helper cell differentiation operated at the level of the T cell receptor signalosome through Vav1, a signaling molecule that controls T cell helper function. This study reveals a previously unappreciated role for Tfh cells in the formation of the GC and isotype switching through a CD4(+) T cell-intrinsic requirement for IL-21.
Vogelzang, A., McGuire, H. N., Yu, D., Sprent, J., Mackay, C. R., & King, C. (2008). A fundamental role for interleukin-21 in the generation of T follicular helper cells. Immunity, 29(1), 127 - 137. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.immuni.2008.06.001