Follicular helper T cells are essential for the elimination of Plasmodium infectionMore about Open Access at the Crick
Authors listDamián Pérez-Mazliah Minh Phuong Nguyen Caroline Hosking Sarah McLaughlin Matthew Lewis Irene Tumwine Prisca Levy Jean Langhorne
CD4 follicular helper T (Tfh) cells have been shown to be critical for the activation of germinal center (GC) B-cell responses. Similar to other infections, Plasmodium infection activates both GC as well as non-GC B cell responses. Here, we sought to explore whether Tfh cells and GC B cells are required to eliminate a Plasmodium infection. A CD4 T cell-targeted deletion of the gene that encodes Bcl6, the master transcription factor for the Tfh program, resulted in complete disruption of the Tfh response to Plasmodium chabaudi in C57BL/6 mice and consequent disruption of GC responses and IgG responses and the inability to eliminate the otherwise self-resolving chronic P. chabaudi infection. On the other hand, and contrary to previous observations in immunization and viral infection models, Signaling Lymphocyte Activation Molecule (SLAM)-Associated Protein (SAP)-deficient mice were able to activate Tfh cells, GC B cells, and IgG responses to the parasite. This study demonstrates the critical role for Tfh cells in controlling this systemic infection, and highlights differences in the signals required to activate GC B cell responses to this complex parasite compared with those of protein immunizations and viral infections. Therefore, these data are highly pertinent for designing malaria vaccines able to activate broadly protective B-cell responses.