Follicular helper T cells in immunity and systemic autoimmunity

Nat Rev Rheumatol. 2012 May 1;8(6):337-47. doi: 10.1038/nrrheum.2012.58.


Follicular helper T (T(FH)) cells are essential for B-cell maturation and immunoglobulin production after immunization with thymus-dependent antigens. Nevertheless, the development and function of T(FH) cells have been less clearly defined than classic CD4(+) effector T-cell subsets, including T-helper-1 (T(H)1), T(H)2 and T(H)17 cells. As such, our understanding of the genesis of T(FH) cells in humans and their role in the development of autoimmunity remains incomplete. However, evidence from animal models of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and patients with systemic autoimmune diseases suggests that these cells are necessary for pathogenic autoantibody production, in a manner analogous to their role in promotion of B-cell maturation during normal immune responses. In this Review, I discuss the findings that have increased our knowledge of T(FH)-cell development and function in normal and aberrant immune responses. Such information might improve our understanding of autoimmune diseases, such as SLE, and highlights the potential of T(FH) cells as therapeutic targets in these diseases.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoantibodies / biosynthesis
  • Autoantibodies / immunology
  • Autoimmunity / immunology*
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Cell Communication / immunology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Immunity / immunology*
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / immunology
  • Lymph Nodes / immunology*
  • Mice
  • T-Lymphocytes, Helper-Inducer / immunology*


  • Autoantibodies