T helper cells orchestrate the cellular and humoral immune response to various pathogens. Different subsets of T helper cells have been characterized based upon their functional properties. Among these, T follicular helper (Tfh) cells provide help to B cells for efficient antibody production. Not surprisingly, dysregulated Tfh cells can cause autoimmunity and allergies. Recently, Tfh cells have also emerged as central intermediaries of other T helper cell-mediated immune responses that involve the generation of certain effector and memory Th cells. However, the precise relationship between Tfh and other T helper cell subsets remains unknown.
We are combining cellular and molecular immunology techniques and state-of-the-art genomic approaches to answer fundamental questions about T helper cell differentiation and plasticity, including the role of microRNAs and transcription factors, in regulating adaptive immune responses. It is anticipated that a better understanding of how Tfh cells are regulated on the molecular level and how Tfh cells contribute to Th cell fate decisions will yield important insights into the rational design of drugs and therapies that target Tfh cells in autoimmune diseases or boost their function in vaccine settings.