Circulating T follicular regulatory and helper cells have memory-like properties

J Clin Invest. 2014 Dec;124(12):5191-204. doi: 10.1172/JCI76861. Epub 2014 Oct 27.


Follicular Tregs (Tfr cells) inhibit antibody production, whereas follicular Th cells (Tfh cells) stimulate it. Tfr cells are found in blood; however, relatively little is known about the developmental signals for these cells or their functions. Here we demonstrated that circulating Tfr and Tfh cells share properties of memory cells and are distinct from effector Tfr and Tfh cells found within lymph nodes (LNs). Circulating memory-like Tfh cells were potently reactivated by DCs, homed to germinal centers, and produced more cytokines than did effector LN Tfh cells. Circulating memory-like Tfr cells persisted for long periods of time in vivo and homed to germinal centers after reactivation. Effector LN Tfr cells suppressed Tfh cell activation and production of cytokines, including IL-21, and inhibited class switch recombination and B cell activation. The suppressive function of this population was not dependent on specific antigen. Similar to LN effector Tfr cells, circulating Tfr cells also suppressed B and Tfh cells, but with a much lower capacity. Our data indicate that circulating memory-like Tfr cells are less suppressive than LN Tfr cells and circulating memory-like Tfh cells are more potent than LN effector Tfh cells; therefore, these circulating populations can provide rapid and robust systemic B cell help during secondary antigen exposure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibody Formation / genetics
  • Antibody Formation / immunology
  • B-Lymphocytes / cytology
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Immunoglobulin Class Switching / genetics
  • Immunologic Memory / physiology*
  • Interleukins / genetics
  • Interleukins / immunology
  • Lymph Nodes / cytology
  • Lymph Nodes / immunology*
  • Lymphocyte Activation / genetics
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / cytology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology*


  • Interleukins
  • interleukin-21