The transcription factor Foxp1 is a critical negative regulator of the differentiation of follicular helper T cells

Nat Immunol. 2014 Jul;15(7):667-75. doi: 10.1038/ni.2890. Epub 2014 May 25.


CD4(+) follicular helper T cells (T(FH) cells) are essential for germinal center (GC) responses and long-lived antibody responses. Here we report that naive CD4(+) T cells deficient in the transcription factor Foxp1 'preferentially' differentiated into T(FH) cells, which resulted in substantially enhanced GC and antibody responses. We found that Foxp1 used both constitutive Foxp1A and Foxp1D induced by stimulation of the T cell antigen receptor (TCR) to inhibit the generation of T(FH) cells. Mechanistically, Foxp1 directly and negatively regulated interleukin 21 (IL-21); Foxp1 also dampened expression of the costimulatory molecule ICOS and its downstream signaling at early stages of T cell activation, which rendered Foxp1-deficient CD4(+) T cells partially resistant to blockade of the ICOS ligand (ICOSL) during T(FH) cell development. Our findings demonstrate that Foxp1 is a critical negative regulator of T(FH) cell differentiation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Cell Differentiation*
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / physiology*
  • Inducible T-Cell Co-Stimulator Protein / genetics
  • Interleukins / genetics
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / physiology
  • Repressor Proteins / physiology*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Helper-Inducer / cytology*


  • Forkhead Transcription Factors
  • Foxp1 protein, mouse
  • Icos protein, mouse
  • Inducible T-Cell Co-Stimulator Protein
  • Interleukins
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell
  • Repressor Proteins
  • interleukin-21

Associated data

  • GEO/GSE50725