T follicular helper (Tfh) cells in lupus: Activation and involvement in SLE pathogenesis

Eur J Immunol. 2016 Feb;46(2):281-90. doi: 10.1002/eji.201545760.


Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic systemic inflammatory autoimmune disease characterized by a breakdown of tolerance to self. The autoantibodies generated in SLE are directed against nuclear components, with which they form immune complexes (ICs). ICs play key roles in organ and tissue damage, as well as in the activation of the innate and adaptive immune system during the disease course. Therefore, it is of prime importance to understand the mechanisms responsible for the development of B cells producing these pathogenic autoantibodies. There is compelling evidence that T follicular helper (Tfh) cells play a fundamental role in this process. In this review, we will summarize the current knowledge regarding the involvement of Tfh cells in SLE pathogenesis, and discuss potential strategies to target Tfh cells and/or molecules as a therapeutic modality of SLE.

Keywords: Autoantibody; B cell; Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE); Tfh cell.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigen-Antibody Complex / metabolism*
  • Autoantibodies / metabolism*
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / immunology*
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Nucleoproteins / immunology
  • Self Tolerance
  • T-Lymphocytes, Helper-Inducer / immunology*


  • Antigen-Antibody Complex
  • Autoantibodies
  • Nucleoproteins