T follicular helper (Tfh) cells play key role in providing help to B cells during germinal center (GC) reactions. Generation of protective antibodies against various infections is an important aspect of Tfh-mediated immune responses and the dysregulation of Tfh cell responses has been implicated in various autoimmune disorders, inflammation, and malignancy. Thus, their differentiation and maintenance must be closely regulated to ensure appropriate help to B cells. The generation and function of Tfh cells is regulated by multiple checkpoints including their early priming stage in T zones and throughout the effector stage of differentiation in GCs. Signaling pathways activated downstream of cytokine and costimulatory receptors as well as consequent activation of subset-specific transcriptional factors are essential steps for Tfh cell generation. Thus, understanding the mechanisms underlying Tfh cell-mediated immunity and pathology will bring into spotlight potential targets for novel therapies. In this review, we discuss the recent findings related to the molecular mechanisms of Tfh cell differentiation and their role in normal immune responses and antibody-mediated diseases.
Keywords: T follicular helper cells; autoimmunity; cancer; germinal center; transcription.