B and T cells collaborate in antiviral responses via IL-6, IL-21, and transcriptional activator and coactivator, Oct2 and OBF-1

Alex Karnowski, Stephane Chevrier, Gabrielle T Belz, Adele M. Mount, Dianne Emslie, Kathy D'Costa, David M. Tarlinton, Axel Kallies, Lynn M. Corcoran

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140 Citations (Scopus)


A strong humoral response to infection requires the collaboration of several hematopoietic cell types that communicate via antigen presentation, surface coreceptors and their ligands, and secreted factors. The proinflammatory cytokine IL-6 has been shown to promote the differentiation of activated CD4+ T cells into T follicular helper cells (TFH cells) during an immune response. TFH cells collaborate with B cells in the formation of germinal centers (GCs) during T cell-dependent antibody responses, in part through secretion of critical cytokines such as IL-21. In this study, we demonstrate that loss of either IL-6 or IL-21 has marginal effects on the generation of TFH cells and on the formation of GCs during the response to acute viral infection. However, mice lacking both IL-6 and IL-21 were unable to generate a robust TFH cell-dependent immune response. We found that IL-6 production in follicular B cells in the draining lymph node was an important early event during the antiviral response and that B cell-derived IL-6 was necessary and sufficient to induce IL-21 from CD4+ T cells in vitro and to support TFH cell development in vivo. Finally, the transcriptional activator Oct2 and its cofactor OBF-1 were identified as regulators of Il6 expression in B cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2049-2064
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Experimental Medicine
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012
Externally publishedYes

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