IL-21 is a type-I cytokine that has pleiotropic immuno-modulatory effects. Primarily produced by activated T cells including NKT and TFH cells, IL-21 plays a pivotal role in promoting TFH differentiation through poorly understood cellular and molecular mechanisms. Here, employing a mouse model of influenza A virus (IAV) infection, we demonstrate that IL-21, initially produced by NKT cells, promotes TFH differentiation by promoting the migration of late activator antigen presenting cell (LAPC), a recently identified TFH inducer, from the infected lungs into the draining lymph nodes (dLN). LAPC migration from IAV-infected lung into the dLN is CXCR3-CXCL9 dependent. IL-21-induced TNF-α production by conventional T cells is critical to stimulate CXCL9 expression by DCs in the dLN, which supports LAPC migration into the dLN and ultimately facilitates TFH differentiation. Our results reveal a previously unappreciated mechanism for IL-21 modulation of TFH responses during respiratory virus infection.
Yoo, J. K., & Braciale, T. J. (2014). IL-21 promotes late activator APC-mediated T follicular helper cell differentiation in experimental pulmonary virus infection. PLoS ONE, 9(9). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0105872