"Almost all licensed human vaccines work on the basis of inducing a long-term, protective antibody response," Shane Crotty, PhD, the study's lead author and a professor in the Institute's Division of Vaccine Discovery, said. "Being able to enhance or increase the frequency of follicular helper T cells may be an excellent approach for better vaccine design."
T cells are a rare kind of immune cells.
"B cells compete for TFH cells to survive," Youn Soo Choi, PhD, postdoctoral researcher and first author, said. "Only those B cells that produce highly specific antibodies attract TFH cells and are able to proliferate." The survivors undergo successive rounds of mutation and selection resulting in better and better antibodies during the course of an immune response.”
They are crucial for the body to provoke a lasting, strong antibody response against microbes and viruses.
"TFH cells are essential for the production of most types of antibodies and defects in TFH function or frequency can have dramatic effects," Crotty said. "It may be particularly important when antibody targets are difficult to recognize and B cells need to explore a bigger mutational landscape. A better understanding of how these cells are produced could really make a difference in how likely it is that your body manages to make good antibodies against an infection."
Until now, the main drives and molecular signals of T cells have been unclear.
Further details are available online in Nature Immunology.
La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology is located at 9420 Athena Circle, La Jolla, San Diego, California.