CD4(+)CXCR5(+) T cells in chronic HCV infection produce less IL-21, yet are efficient at supporting B cell responses

Michelle Spaan, Kim Kreefft, Gretchen Graav, Willem Pieter Brouwer, Rob de Knegt, Fiebo Kate, Carla Baan, Thomas Vanwolleghem, HLA Janssen, Andre Boonstra

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42 Citations (Scopus)


Background & Aims: During chronic HCV infection, T cell dependent virus-specific antibodies are produced. However, the role of B-T cell interaction in chronic HCV is largely unknown. CD4(+)CXCR5(+) T follicular helper (T-FH)-cells activate B cells and are important for clearance of various chronic viral infections. We investigated the function of T-FH cells and B cells in liver and in peripheral blood of chronic HCV patients. Methods: T cells from chronic HCV patients and healthy individuals were analysed for expression of CXCR5, PD-1, ICOS, and IL-21 and IFN-gamma production by flow cytometry. CD19(+) B cell subpopulations were identified on the basis of CD27 and IgD expression. In order to assess the frequency and function of T cells and B cells in liver follicles, immunohistochemistry was performed for CD3, CXCR5, Bcl6, IL-21, CD20, IgD, IgM, and IgG. Results: The frequency of IL-21-producing CXCR5(+)CD4(+) T cells in blood was lower in HCV patients compared to healthy individuals (p = 0.002), which was reflected by lower serum IL-21 levels (p < 0.001). Nonetheless, CXCR5(+)CD4(+) T cells from HCV patients and healthy individuals were equally capable to stimulate CD19(+)CD27(+) memory B cells into IgG and IgM-producing plasmablasts. Importantly, human intrahepatic T-FH cells and their related function were identified by immunohistochemistry on liver biopsies for CD3, Bcl6, and CD20 within portal areas and follicles. Conclusions: The specific localization of T-FH cells and IgG and IgD/IgM-producing B cells suggests a functional B-T cell environment in liver follicles during HCV infection. The decreased frequency of IL-21-producing CXCR5(+)CD4(+) T cells and lower serum IL-21 levels in chronic HCV patients did not lead to an altered T-FH-B cell interaction. (C) 2014 European Association for the Study of the Liver. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)303-310
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Hepatology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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