T follicular helper (Tfh) cells help development of antibody responses via interleukin-21 (IL-21). Here we show that activated human dendritic cells (DCs) induced naive CD4+ T cells to become IL-21-producing Tfh-like cells through IL-12. CD4+ T cells primed with IL-12 induced B cells to produce immunoglobulins in a fashion dependent on IL-21 and inducible costimulator (ICOS), thus sharing fundamental characteristics with Tfh cells. The induction of Tfh-like cells by activated DCs was inhibited by neutralizing IL-12. IL-12 induced two different IL-21-producers: IL-21+IFN-γ+T-bet+ Th1 cells and IL-21+IFN-γ-T-bet- non-Th1 cells, in a manner dependent on signal transducer and activator of transcription 4 (STAT4). IL-12 also regulated IL-21 secretion by memory CD4+ T cells. Thus, IL-12 produced by activated DCs regulates antibody responses via developing IL-21-producing Tfh-like cells and inducing IL-21 secretion from memory CD4+ T cells. These data suggest that the developmental pathway of Tfh cells differs between mice and humans, which have considerable implications for vaccine development.
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