Loss of Circulating CD4 T Cells with B Cell Helper Function during Chronic HIV Infection

Kristin L. Boswell, Robert Paris, Eli Boritz, David Ambrozak, Takuya Yamamoto, Sam Darko, Kaska Wloka, Adam Wheatley, Sandeep Narpala, Adrian McDermott, Mario Roederer, Richard Haubrich, Mark Connors, Julie Ake, Daniel C. Douek, Jerome Kim, Constantinos Petrovas*, Richard A. Koup

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

132 Scopus citations


The interaction between follicular T helper cells (TFH) and B cells in the lymph nodes and spleen has a major impact on the development of antigen-specific B cell responses during infection or vaccination. Recent studies described a functional equivalent of these cells among circulating CD4 T cells, referred to as peripheral TFH cells. Here, we characterize the phenotype and in vitro B cell helper activity of peripheral TFH populations, as well as the effect of HIV infection on these populations. In co-culture experiments we confirmed CXCR5+ cells from HIV-uninfected donors provide help to B cells and more specifically, we identified a CCR7highCXCR5highCCR6highPD-1high CD4 T cell population that secretes IL-21 and enhances isotype-switched immunoglobulin production. This population is significantly decreased in treatment-naïve, HIV-infected individuals and can be recovered after anti-retroviral therapy. We found impaired immunoglobulin production in co-cultures from HIV-infected individuals and found no correlation between the frequency of peripheral TFH cells and memory B cells, or with neutralization activity in untreated HIV infection in our cohort. Furthermore, we found that within the peripheral TFH population, the expression level of TFH-associated genes more closely resembles a memory, non-TFH population, as opposed to a TFH population. Overall, our data identify a heterogeneous population of circulating CD4 T cells that provides in vitro help to B cells, and challenges the origin of these cells as memory TFH cells.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1003853
JournalPLoS Pathogens
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes


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