Multi-tasking of helper T cells


  • Yisong Y. Wan

    1. Department of Microbiology and Immunology, School of Medicine, Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina, NC, USA
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Y. Y. Wan, Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, CB 7295,450 West Drive, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7295, USA.
Senior author: Yisong Y. Wan


CD4 T helper cells (Th) are critical in combating pathogens and maintaining immune homeostasis. Since the establishment of the Th1–Th2 paradigm in the 1980s, many types of specialized Th cells, including Th1, Th2, Th17, Th9, follicular helper T and regulatory T, have been identified. We have become accustomed to the idea that different Th cells are ‘committed’ to their paths but recent emerging evidence suggests that under certain conditions, seemingly committed Th cells possess plasticity and may convert into other types of effector cells. In this review, we will first introduce the major sub-types of Th cells that are involved in immune regulation. Then, we will describe in detail the inter-convertibility of Th cells among different sub-types under in vitro and in vivo conditions. Finally, we will discuss our current understanding of the underlying mechanisms on how a particular type of Th cells may convert into other types of Th cells.