CD4 T Helper Cell Subsets and Related Human Immunological Disorders

Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Oct 28;21(21):8011. doi: 10.3390/ijms21218011.


The immune system plays a critical role in protecting hosts from the invasion of organisms. CD4 T cells, as a key component of the immune system, are central in orchestrating adaptive immune responses. After decades of investigation, five major CD4 T helper cell (Th) subsets have been identified: Th1, Th2, Th17, Treg (T regulatory), and Tfh (follicular T helper) cells. Th1 cells, defined by the expression of lineage cytokine interferon (IFN)-γ and the master transcription factor T-bet, participate in type 1 immune responses to intracellular pathogens such as mycobacterial species and viruses; Th2 cells, defined by the expression of lineage cytokines interleukin (IL)-4/IL-5/IL-13 and the master transcription factor GAΤA3, participate in type 2 immune responses to larger extracellular pathogens such as helminths; Th17 cells, defined by the expression of lineage cytokines IL-17/IL-22 and the master transcription factor RORγt, participate in type 3 immune responses to extracellular pathogens including some bacteria and fungi; Tfh cells, by producing IL-21 and expressing Bcl6, help B cells produce corresponding antibodies; whereas Foxp3-expressing Treg cells, unlike Th1/Th2/Th17/Tfh exerting their effector functions, regulate immune responses to maintain immune cell homeostasis and prevent immunopathology. Interestingly, innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) have been found to mimic the functions of three major effector CD4 T helper subsets (Th1, Th2, and Th17) and thus can also be divided into three major subsets: ILC1s, ILC2s, and ILC3s. In this review, we will discuss the differentiation and functions of each CD4 T helper cell subset in the context of ILCs and human diseases associated with the dysregulation of these lymphocyte subsets particularly caused by monogenic mutations.

Keywords: ILCs; Tfh; Th1; Th17; Th2; Treg; immunological diseases; pathogens.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immune System Diseases / immunology*
  • Immune System Diseases / metabolism
  • Immune System Diseases / pathology*
  • Immunity, Innate / immunology*


  • Cytokines