Scientists reveal new details on how immune cells communicate upon vaccination in two papers online this week in Nature Immunology. The process enables the body to generate long-term highly effective antibody protection and understanding it better could lead to improved vaccination formulation.
Both papers focus on the interactions of specialized immune cells called follicular helper T cells (TFH) and their interaction with antibody-producing B cells. Michael McHeyzer-Williams and colleagues show only those T cells with highest affinity for the immunizing protein develop into TFH cells in lymph nodes and the spleen. TFH cells then form intimate contacts with B cells in lymphoid follicles, much like dance partners.
Richard Locksley and colleagues show these TFH cells give chemical instructions, known as cytokines, directly to their partner B cells. This interaction directs the B cell to refine its antibody-encoding genes to generate high-affinity antibodies tailored to give the most efficient immune response.