Follicular T helper cell populations
Humoral immunity provides protection against subsequent infections. Antigen-specific, high-affinity, class-switched antibodies are produced by B cells through rounds of proliferation, B cell receptor rearrangement and selection in the germinal centres (GC). T cells play an essential and indispensable role in this process and in the recent years the term T follicular helper cells (TFH) was coined to describe this cell subset. The aim of my thesis is to investigate whether there is more than one type of T cells within the TFH population and whether it has important functional consequences. Firstly, I use sheep red blood cell immunisation (SRBC) and Salmonella enterica infection to show phenotypical differences between TFH expressing high and low level of surface molecule PD-1. In order to investigate the relationship between different TFH populations gene profiling was carried out on the microarray platform. Detailed transcriptome analysis revealed the discrete nature of isolated TFH cell subsets and provided an overview of their genetic landscape. Secondly, I have investigated the dependence of TFH subsets on cognate interactions with B cell in SRBC model by generating BM chimeras. I have demonstrated that generation of PD-1HI TFH, but not of PD-1LO TFH, depends on antigen presentation by B cells. Furthermore, I have shown that provision of wild-type but not MHC II knock-out B cells rescues PD-1HI formation in BM chimeras after SRBC immunisation. Finally, I have explored plasticity within TFH subsets and showed that none of the populations is in a terminally differentiated state, as they can convert into one another. Thirdly, experiments with S. enterica model revealed that the absence of PD- 1HI TFH is independent of the splenic architecture disruption present within the first week of the response. Surprisingly, co-immunisation studies showed that PD-1HI population is not only present but even enhanced in the group which received both SRBC and S. enterica when compared to single immunisations. The work presented in the thesis documents that there is a significant and previously unappreciated heterogeneity within TFH subset. This knowledge is important for designing optimal vaccine strategies and treating autoimmune diseases, as in both processes the antibody production plays a crucial role and its manipulation (either enhancing or blocking antibody production, respectively) can significantly improve clinical interventions.