Sustained T cell receptor (TCR) stimulation is required for maintaining germinal center T follicular helper (GC-TFH) cells. Paradoxically, TCR activation induces interleukin-2 receptor (IL-2R) expression and IL-2 production, thereby initiating a feedback loop of IL-2 signaling that normally inhibits TFH cells. It is unclear how GC-TFH cells can receive prolonged TCR signaling without succumbing to the detrimental effects of IL-2. Using an influenza infection model, we show here that GC-TFH cells secreted large amounts of IL-2 but responded poorly to it. To maintain their IL-2 hyporesponsiveness, GC-TFH cells required intrinsic IL-6 signaling. Mechanistically, we found that IL-6 inhibited up-regulation of IL-2Rβ (CD122) by preventing association of STAT5 with the Il2rb locus, thus allowing GC-TFH cells to receive sustained TCR signaling and produce IL-2 without initiating a TCR/IL-2 inhibitory feedback loop. Collectively, our results identify a regulatory mechanism that controls the generation of GC-TFH cells.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy