Research Summary: Helios Is Associated with CD4 T Cells Differentiating to T Helper 2 and Follicular Helper T Cells In Vivo Independently of Foxp3 Expression



Although in vitro IL-4 directs CD4 T cells to produce T helper 2 (Th2)-cytokines, these cytokines can be induced in vivo in the absence of IL-4-signalling. Thus, mechanism(s), different from the in vitro pathway for Th2-induction, contribute to in vivo Th2-differentiation. The pathway for in vivo IL-4-independent Th2-differentiation has yet to be characterized.


Helios (ikzf2), a member of the Ikaros transcription regulator family, is expressed in thymocytes and some antigen-matured T cells as well as in regulatory T cells. It has been proposed that Helios is a specific marker for thymus-derived regulatory T cells. Here, we show that mouse ovalbumin-specific CD4 (OTII) cells responding to alum-precipitated ovalbumin (alumOVA) upregulate Th2 features – GATA-3 and IL-4 – as well as Helios mRNA and protein. Helios is also upregulated in follicular helper T (TFh) cells in this response. By contrast, OTII cells responding to the Th1 antigen – live attenuated ovalbumin-expressing Salmonella – upregulate Th1 features – T-bet and IFN-γ – but not Helios. In addition, CD4 T cells induced to produce Th2 cytokines in vitro do not express Helios. The kinetics of Helios mRNA and protein induction mirrors that of GATA-3. The induction of IL-4, IL-13 and CXCR5 by alumOVA requires NF-κB1 and this is also needed for Helios upregulation. Importantly, Helios is induced in Th2 and TFh cells without parallel upregulation of Foxp3. These findings suggested a key role for Helios in Th2 and TFh development in response to alum-protein vaccines. We tested this possibility using Helios-deficient OTII cells and found this deficiency had no discernable impact on Th2 and TFh differentiation in response to alumOVA.


Helios is selectively upregulated in CD4 T cells during Th2 and TFh responses to alum-protein vaccines in vivo, but the functional significance of this upregulation remains uncertain.


Publisher: Public Library of Science

Date Published: 3-June-2011

Author(s): Serre K., Bénézech C., Desanti G., Bobat S., Toellner K., Bird R., Chan S., Kastner P., Cunningham A., MacLennan I., Mohr E.


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