Over the last 15 years, the inducible T cell co-stimulator (ICOS) has been implicated in various immune outcomes, including the induction and regulation of Th1, Th2, and Th17 immunity. In addition to its role in directing effector T cell differentiation, ICOS has also been consistently linked with the induction of thymus-dependent (TD) antibody (Ab) responses and the germinal center (GC) reaction. ICOS co-stimulation, therefore, appears to play a complex role in dictating the course of adaptive immunity. In this article, we summarize the initial characterization of ICOS and its relationship with the related co-stimulatory molecule CD28. We then address the contribution of ICOS in directing an effector T cell response, and ultimately disease outcome, against various bacterial, viral, and parasitic infections. Next, we assess ICOS in the context of TD Ab responses, connecting ICOS signaling to follicular helper T cell differentiation and its role in the GC reaction. Finally, we address the link between ICOS and human autoimmune disorders and evaluate potential therapies aiming to mitigate disease progression by modulating ICOS signaling.
Keywords: T cell activation; antibody production; co-stimulatory molecules; parasitic and bacterial infection.