Follicular helper CD4 T cells (TFH)

Annu Rev Immunol. 2011;29:621-63. doi: 10.1146/annurev-immunol-031210-101400.


T cell help to B cells is a fundamental aspect of adaptive immunity and the generation of immunological memory. Follicular helper CD4 T (T(FH)) cells are the specialized providers of B cell help. T(FH) cells depend on expression of the master regulator transcription factor Bcl6. Distinguishing features of T(FH) cells are the expression of CXCR5, PD-1, SAP (SH2D1A), IL-21, and ICOS, among other molecules, and the absence of Blimp-1 (prdm1). T(FH) cells are important for the formation of germinal centers. Once germinal centers are formed, T(FH) cells are needed to maintain them and to regulate germinal center B cell differentiation into plasma cells and memory B cells. This review covers T(FH) differentiation, T(FH) functions, and human T(FH) cells, discussing recent progress and areas of uncertainty or disagreement in the literature, and it debates the developmental relationship between T(FH) cells and other CD4 T cell subsets (Th1, Th2, Th17, iTreg).

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Germinal Center / cytology
  • Humans
  • Lymphoid Tissue / cytology
  • Lymphoid Tissue / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Helper-Inducer / cytology*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Helper-Inducer / immunology*