An insight into molecular mechanisms of human T helper cell differentiation

Ann Med. 2008;40(5):322-35. doi: 10.1080/07853890802068582.


Selective activation of T helper (Th) cell subsets plays an important role in immune response to pathogens as well as in the pathogenesis of human allergy and inflammatory diseases. Th1 cells along with the recently discovered Th17 cells play a role in the pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases. Th2 cytokines lead to series of inflammatory processes characteristic for asthma and other atopic diseases. To understand the pathogenesis of immune-mediated diseases it is crucial to dissect pathways and regulatory networks leading to the development of distinct Th subsets. Such knowledge may lead to better strategies for developing diagnostics and therapies for these diseases. The differentiation of Th1, Th2, and Th17 effector cells is driven by signals originating from T cell and costimulatory receptors as well as cytokines in the surroundings of activated naive T helper cells. There are several proteins involved in the regulation of this differentiation process. Most of the data on T helper cell differentiation have been acquired using mouse. In this review, we have summarized what is known about human T helper differentiation. In addition, selected differences between human and mouse will be discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / immunology*
  • Cytokines / immunology*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / immunology
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-17 / immunology
  • Mice
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / immunology
  • Signal Transduction / immunology
  • Species Specificity
  • T-Lymphocytes, Helper-Inducer / immunology*
  • Th1 Cells / immunology
  • Th2 Cells / immunology


  • Cytokines
  • Interleukin-17
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell