Follicular helper T (Tfh) cells promote germinal center (GC) B cell survival and proliferation and guide their differentiation and immunoglobulin isotype switching by delivering contact-dependent and soluble factors, including IL-21, IL-4, IL-9, and IFN-γ. IL-21 and IFN-γ are coexpressed by Tfh cells during viral infections, but transcriptional regulation of these cytokines is not completely understood. In this study, we show that the T helper type 1 cell (Th1 cell) transcriptional regulators T-bet and STAT4 are coexpressed with Bcl6 in Tfh cells after acute viral infection, with a temporal decline in T-bet in the waning response. T-bet is important for Tfh cell production of IFN-γ, but not IL-21, and for a robust GC reaction. STAT4, phosphorylated in Tfh cells upon infection, is required for expression of T-bet and Bcl6 and for IFN-γ and IL-21. These data indicate that T-bet is expressed with Bcl6 in Tfh cells and is required alongside STAT4 to coordinate Tfh cell IL-21 and IFN-γ production and for promotion of the GC response after acute viral challenge.
© 2018 Weinstein et al.