TGF-β specifies TFH versus TH17 cell fates in murine CD4+ T cells through c-Maf

Yinshui Chang, Luisa Bach, Marko Hasiuk, Lifen Wen, Tarek Elmzzahi, Carlson Tsui, Nicolás Gutiérrez-Melo, Teresa Steffen, Daniel T. Utzschneider, Timsse Raj, Paul Jonas Jost, Sylvia Heink, Jingyuan Cheng, Oliver T. Burton, Julia Zeiträg, Dominik Alterauge, Frank Dahlström, Jennifer Christin Becker, Melanie Kastl, Konstantinos SymeonidisMartina van Uelft, Matthias Becker, Sarah Reschke, Stefan Krebs, Helmut Blum, Zeinab Abdullah, Katrin Paeschke, Caspar Ohnmacht, Christian Neumann, Adrian Liston, Felix Meissner, Thomas Korn, Jan Hasenauer, Vigo Heissmeyer, Marc Beyer, Axel Kallies, Lukas T. Jeker, Dirk Baumjohann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


T follicular helper (TFH) cells are essential for effective antibody responses, but deciphering the intrinsic wiring of mouse TFH cells has long been hampered by the lack of a reliable protocol for their generation in vitro. We report that transforming growth factor–β (TGF-β) induces robust expression of TFH hallmark molecules CXCR5 and Bcl6 in activated mouse CD4+ T cells in vitro. TGF-β–induced mouse CXCR5+ TFH cells are phenotypically, transcriptionally, and functionally similar to in vivo–generated TFH cells and provide critical help to B cells. The study further reveals that TGF-β–induced CXCR5 expression is independent of Bcl6 but requires the transcription factor c-Maf. Classical TGF-β–containing T helper 17 (TH17)–inducing conditions also yield separate CXCR5+ and IL-17A–producing cells, highlighting shared and distinct cell fate trajectories of TFH and TH17 cells. We demonstrate that excess IL-2 in high-density T cell cultures interferes with the TGF-β–induced TFH cell program, that TFH and TH17 cells share a common developmental stage, and that c-Maf acts as a switch factor for TFH versus TH17 cell fates in TGF-β–rich environments in vitro and in vivo.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4818
JournalScience Immunology
Issue number93
StatePublished - Mar 2024
Externally publishedYes


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