Research ArticleInfluenza

Induction of ICOS+CXCR3+CXCR5+ TH Cells Correlates with Antibody Responses to Influenza Vaccination

Science Translational Medicine  13 Mar 2013:
Vol. 5, Issue 176, pp. 176ra32
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3005191

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What Lies Beneath

Although the seasonal flu vaccine, which can protect 60 to 90% of young healthy adults, has been in use for decades, we still know surprisingly little about how it actually induces protective antibody responses. This information is especially important to improve vaccination efficacy in populations that are more susceptible to infection such as the very young and the elderly. Now, Bentebibel et al. take us a step further into understanding what is required for protective antibody responses in humans.

The authors identified a subset of CD4+ T cells that were associated with protective antibody responses after seasonal flu vaccination in humans. These cells expressed the costimulatory molecules ICOS as well as two chemokine receptors, CXCR3 and CXCR5, which identify these cells as circulating memory T follicular helper (TFH) cells. TFH cells traditionally are thought to reside in the B cell follicles and be instrumental for germinal center formation and subsequent memory antibody response. Indeed, these circulating cells were influenza antigen–specific, could induce memory B cells to differentiate into plasma cells, and correlated with specific antibody titer. Further studies that find ways to harness these cells could thus improve vaccine design.