Interleukin-21 and T follicular helper cells in HIV infection: Research focus and future perspectives

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17 Scopus citations


Interleukin (IL)-21 is a member of the γ chain-receptor cytokine family along with IL-2, IL-4, IL-7, IL-9, and IL-15 the effects of IL-21 are pleiotropic, owing to the broad cellular distribution of the IL-21 receptor. IL-21 is secreted by activated CD4 T cells and natural killer T cells. Within CD4 T cells, its secretion is restricted mainly to T follicular helper (Tfh) cells and Th17 cells to a lesser extent. Our research focus has been on the role of IL-21 and more recently of Tfh in immunopathogenesis of HIV infection. This review focuses on first the influence of IL-21 in regulation of T cell, B cell, and NK cell responses and its immunotherapeutic potential in viral infections and as a vaccine adjuvant. Second, we discuss the pivotal role of Tfh in generation of antibody responses in HIV-infected persons in studies using influenza vaccines as a probe. Lastly, we review data supporting ability of HIV to infect Tfh and the role of these cells as reservoirs for HIV and their contribution to viral persistence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)279-291
Number of pages13
JournalImmunologic Research
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Dec 2013


  • HIV and IL-21
  • HIV persistence
  • IL-21 and B cells
  • IL-21 and immunity
  • IL-21 and T cells
  • Tfh cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology


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