It is well established that PD-1 is expressed by follicular T cells but its function in regulation of human T helper cells has been unclear. We investigated the expression modality and function of PD-1 expressed by human T cells specialized in helping B cells.


We found that PD-1-expressing T cells are heterogeneous in PD-1 expression. We identified three different PD-1-expressing memory T cell subsets (i.e. PD-1low (+), PD-1medium (++), and PD-1high (+++) cells). PD-1+++ T cells expressed CXCR5 and CXCR4 and were localized in the rim of germinal centers. PD-1+ or PD-1++ cells expressed CCR7 and were present mainly in the T cell area or other parts of the B cell follicles. Utilizing a novel antigen density-dependent magnetic sorting (ADD-MS) method, we isolated the three T cell subsets for functional characterization. The germinal center-located PD-1+++ T cells were most efficient in helping B cells and in producing IL-21 and CXCL13. Other PD-1-expressing T cells, enriched with Th1 and Th17 cells, were less efficient than PD-1+++ T cells in these capacities. PD-1+++ T cells highly expressed Ki-67 and therefore appear active in cell activation and proliferation in vivo. IL-2 is a cytokine important for proliferation and survival of the PD-1+++ T cells. In contrast, IL-21, while a major effector cytokine produced by the PD-1-expressing T helper cells, had no function in generation, survival, or proliferation of the PD-1-expressing helper T cells at least in vitro. PD-1 triggering has a suppressive effect on the proliferation and B cell-helping function of PD-1+++ germinal center T cells.


Our results revealed the phenotype and effector function of PD-1-expressing T helper cell subsets and indicate that PD-1 restrains the B cell-helping function of germinal center-localized T cells to prevent excessive antibody response.



This is the publisher pdf of Chuanwu Wang, Peter Hillsamer, Chang H Kim. Phenotype, Effector Function, and Tissue Localization of PD-1-Expressing Human Follicular Helper T Cell Subsets. BMC Immunology 2011, 12:53 (13 September 2011) and is available at: 10.1186/1471-2172-12-53.

Date of this Version