Effective B cell-mediated immunity and antibody responses often require help from CD4+ T cells. It is thought that a distinct CD4+ effector T cell subset, called T follicular helper cells (TFH), provides this help; however, the molecular requirements for TFH differentiation are unknown. We found that expression of the transcription factor Bcl6 in CD4 + T cells is both necessary and sufficient for in vivo TFH differentiation and T cell help to B cells in mice. In contrast, the transcription factor Blimp-1, an antagonist of Bcl6, inhibits TFH differentiation and help, thereby preventing B cell germinal center and antibody responses. These findings demonstrate that TFH cells are required for proper B cell responses in vivo and that Bcl6 and Blimp-1 play central but opposing roles in TFH differentiation.
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