Regulation of Humoral Immunity by Tox CD4 T cells are a critical component of the adaptive immune system. Through cell-to-cell contact and cytokine production they are required for the generation of effective antibody-mediated humoral immunity. As a link between environment and function, CD4 T helper cell differentiation is influenced by cytokines in the inflammatory milieu that in part shapes their capacity to produce lineage-specific cytokines and provide help to cells of the immune system. T follicular helper (TFH) cells are generated in the presence of IL-6 and IL-21 and are identified ex vivo by their expression of their master transcription factor BCL6 and cell surface expression of the chemokine receptor CXCR5 and PD-1. Based on their unique expression of CXCR5, TFH cells migrate to the B cell zone and provide help for antigen-bearing B cells. TFH cells are of critical importance for developing effective B cell responses as mice deficient in TFH-specific components (i.e. BCL6) fail to develop germinal centers or high affinity antibodies after infection or immunization. Although BCL6 is required for TFH differentiation, it is thought to directly bind and regulate a relatively small number of genes, suggesting that other downstream factors may be at play. In our preliminary data we show that Thymus-associated high mobility group box protein (Tox) is coordinately expressed with BCL6 and PD-1 in TFH cells and requires BCL6 for its expression. Tox is a DNA binding protein that has previously been shown to play a role in thymocyte development; however, its role in mature T cells is virtually unexplored. The goal of this application is to determine the role of Tox in the differentiation and/or function of TFH cell. Our hypothesis is that Tox promotes TFH development and that in the absence of Tox expression, T cells will not be able to support germinal center formation. We will test this hypothesis by manipulating Tox expression in mature T cells and examining the consequences of enhanced or reduced Tox expression levels by examining the magnitude and phenotype of TFH cells and the humoral response after infection and immunization. These studies will provide novel insight into the role of a previously under studied DNA binding protein in the differentiatio and function of TFH cells. Further, these studies will enhance our understanding of the transcription factor network that governs differentiation of this highly important subset of CD4 T cells.

Public Health Relevance

Antibodies are critical agents in immunity to multiple pathogens. We are only beginning to understand the development of T cells that promote optimal antibody responses. These studies will investigate a newly identified factor that controls development and potentially regulates antibody responses.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
Small Research Grants (R03)
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Cellular and Molecular Immunology - B Study Section (CMIB)
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Ferguson, Stacy E
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Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis
Schools of Medicine
United States
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Xie, Markus M; Koh, Byung-Hee; Hollister, Kristin et al. (2017) Bcl6 promotes follicular helper T-cell differentiation and PD-1 expression in a Blimp1-independent manner in mice. Eur J Immunol 47:1136-1141
Wu, Hao; Xu, Lin-Lin; Teuscher, Paulla et al. (2015) An Inhibitory Role for the Transcription Factor Stat3 in Controlling IL-4 and Bcl6 Expression in Follicular Helper T Cells. J Immunol 195:2080-9