The impact of HIV infection on the frequencies, function, spatial localization and heterogeneity of T follicular regulatory cells (TFRs) within human lymph nodes

BMC Immunol. 2022 Jul 1;23(1):34. doi: 10.1186/s12865-022-00508-1.


Background: HIV eradication efforts have been unsuccessful partly due to virus persistence in immune sanctuary sites such as germinal centres within lymph node (LN) tissues. Recent evidence suggests that LNs harbour a novel subset of regulatory T cells, termed follicular regulatory T cells (TFRs), but their role in HIV pathogenesis is not fully elucidated.

Results: Paired excisional LN and peripheral blood samples obtained from 20 HIV-uninfected and 31 HIV-infected treated and 7 chronic untreated, were used to determine if and how HIV infection modulate frequencies, function and spatial localization of TFRs within LN tissues. Imaging studies showed that most TFRs are localized in extra-follicular regions. Co-culture assays showed TFRs suppression of TFH help to B cells. Importantly, epigenetic and transcriptional studies identified DPP4 and FCRL3 as novel phenotypic markers that define four functionally distinct TFR subpopulations in human LNs regardless of HIV status. Imaging studies confirmed the regulatory phenotype of DPP4+TFRs.

Conclusion: Together these studies describe TFRs dynamic changes during HIV infection and reveal previously underappreciated TFR heterogeneity within human LNs.

Keywords: Biomarkers; Follicular helper T (TFH) cells; Follicular regulatory T cells (TFRs); HIV; Lymph node.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Dipeptidyl Peptidase 4
  • Germinal Center
  • HIV Infections*
  • Humans
  • Lymph Nodes
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory


  • Dipeptidyl Peptidase 4