CD8 T cells can play both a protective and pathogenic role in inflammation and autoimmune development. Recent studies have highlighted the ability of CD8 T cells to function as T follicular helper (Tfh) cells in the germinal center in the context of infection. However, whether this phenomenon occurs in autoimmunity and contributes to autoimmune pathogenesis is largely unexplored. In this study, we show that CD8 T cells acquire a CD4 Tfh profile in the absence of functional regulatory T cells in both the IL-2-deficient and scurfy mouse models. Depletion of CD8 T cells mitigates autoimmune pathogenesis in IL-2-deficient mice. CD8 T cells express the B cell follicle-localizing chemokine receptor CXCR5, a principal Tfh transcription factor Bcl6, and the Tfh effector cytokine IL-21. CD8 T cells localize to the B cell follicle, express B cell costimulatory proteins, and promote B cell differentiation and Ab isotype class switching. These data reveal a novel contribution of autoreactive CD8 T cells to autoimmune disease, in part, through CD4 follicular-like differentiation and functionality.
Journal of Immunology
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