Upon antigen-specific stimulation, naïve CD4⁺ T cells have the potential to differentiate into various T helper (Th) cell subsets. Earlier models of Th cell differentiation focused on IFN-γ-producing Th1 cells and IL-4-secreting Th2 cells. The discovery of additional CD4⁺ Th cell subsets has extended our understanding of Th cell differentiation beyond this dichotomy. Among these is the recently described Th9 cell subset, which preferentially produces interleukin (IL)-9. Here, we review the latest developments in Th9 cell development and differentiation, focusing on contributing environmental signals, and discuss potential physiological and pathophysiological functions of these cells. We describe the challenges inherent to unambiguously defining roles for Th9 cells using the available experimental animal models, and suggest new experimental models to address these concerns.
Keywords: T helper cell; Th9; cytokine; interleukin-9; lymphocyte differentiation; plasticity; transcription factor.
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