Dynamic signaling by T follicular helper cells during germinal center B cell selection

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Science  29 Aug 2014:
Vol. 345, Issue 6200, pp. 1058-1062
DOI: 10.1126/science.1257861

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T and B cells' intricate molecular dance

Generating high-affinity antibodies to fight infection is no easy task. To do so requires multiple steps, including T cells interacting with antibody-producing B cells in lymph nodes. These interactions select B cells expressing high-affinity antibodies for further proliferation, ensuring that the immune response generates high-affinity antibodies in large quantities. Shulman et al. use fluorescent live-cell imaging in mice to determine the molecular details of these interactions. They find that T cells engage B cells in short-lived mobile contacts during selection. These contacts cause T cells to flux calcium and produce proteins called cytokines, which probably drive B cells to proliferate and produce high-affinity antibodies.

Science, this issue p. 1058


T follicular helper (TFH) cells select high-affinity, antibody-producing B cells for clonal expansion in germinal centers (GCs), but the nature of their interaction is not well defined. Using intravital imaging, we found that selection is mediated by large but transient contacts between TFH and GC B cells presenting the highest levels of cognate peptide bound to major histocompatibility complex II. These interactions elicited transient and sustained increases in TFH intracellular free calcium (Ca2+) that were associated with TFH cell coexpression of the cytokines interleukin-4 and -21. However, increased intracellular Ca2+ did not arrest TFH cell migration. Instead, TFH cells remained motile and continually scanned the surface of many GC B cells, forming short-lived contacts that induced selection through further repeated transient elevations in intracellular Ca2+.

  • * Present address: Immunology Institute, Department of Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY 10029, USA.

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