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Abstract

Sjögren's syndrome (SjS), an autoimmune disease characterized by exocrine gland dysfunction leading to dry mouth and dry eye diseases, is typified by progressive leucocyte infiltrations of the salivary and lacrimal glands. Histologically, these leucocyte infiltrations generally establish periductal aggregates, referred to as lymphocytic foci (LF), which occasionally appear as germinal centre (GC)-like structures. The formation and organization of these LF suggest an important and dynamic role for helper T cells (TH), specifically TH1, TH2 and the recently discovered TH17, in development and onset of clinical SjS, considered a B cell–mediated hypersensitivity type 2 disease. Despite an ever-increasing focus on identifying the underlying aetiology of SjS, defining factors that initiate this autoimmune disease remain a mystery. Thus, determining interactions between infiltrating TH cells and exocrine gland tissue (auto-)antigens represents a fertile research endeavour. This review discusses pathological functions of TH cells in SjS, the current status of TH cell receptor gene rearrangements associated with human and mouse models of SjS and potential future prospects for identifying receptor–autoantigen interactions.