Germinal center B and follicular helper T cells: siblings, cousins or just good friends?

Nat Immunol. 2011 Jun;12(6):472-7. doi: 10.1038/ni.2019.


Humoral immunity requires interaction between specialized populations of B cells and CD4(+) T cells, called follicular helper T cells (T(FH) cells), in the germinal center (GC) to produce memory B cells and long-lived plasma cells. Molecular crosstalk between GC B cells and T(FH) cells influences the survival, proliferation and differentiation of each cell type. This pairing of GC B cells and T(FH) cells also occurs at the transcriptional level as the Bcl-6–IRF4–Blimp-1 axis, which is crucial for B cell differentiation, is also essential for the T(FH) cell identity. Less is known about the memory B cells that arise from the GC pool, as they seem to be distinctly 'programmed' on the basis of their antigen receptor affinity to enter the long-lived memory pool.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Differentiation, T-Lymphocyte / immunology
  • Antigens, Differentiation, T-Lymphocyte / metabolism
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • B-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Cell Communication / immunology
  • Cell Differentiation / immunology*
  • Germinal Center / immunology*
  • Germinal Center / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inducible T-Cell Co-Stimulator Protein
  • Models, Immunological
  • Plasma Cells / immunology
  • Plasma Cells / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism


  • Antigens, Differentiation, T-Lymphocyte
  • ICOS protein, human
  • Inducible T-Cell Co-Stimulator Protein