T follicular helper cells (TFH cells) are important regulators of antigen-specific B cell responses. The B cell chemoattractant CXCL13 has recently been linked with TFH cell infiltration and improved survival in human cancer. Although human TFH cells can produce CXCL13, their immune functions are currently unknown. This study presents data from human breast cancer, advocating a role for tumor-infiltrating CXCL13-producing (CXCR5–) TFH cells, here named TFHX13 cells, in promoting local memory B cell differentiation. TFHX13 cells potentially trigger tertiary lymphoid structure formation and thereby generate germinal center B cell responses at the tumor site. Follicular DCs are not potent CXCL13 producers in breast tumor tissues. We used the TFH cell markers PD-1 and ICOS to identify distinct effector and regulatory CD4+ T cell subpopulations in breast tumors. TFHX13 cells are an important component of the PD-1hiICOSint effector subpopulation and coexpanded with PD-1intICOShiFOXP3hi Tregs. IL2 deprivation induces CXCL13 expression in vitro with a synergistic effect from TGFβ1, providing insight into TFHX13 cell differentiation in response to Treg accumulation, similar to conventional TFH cell responses. Our data suggest that human TFHX13 cell differentiation may be a key factor in converting Treg-mediated immune suppression to de novo activation of adaptive antitumor humoral responses in the chronic inflammatory breast cancer microenvironment.


Chunyan Gu-Trantien, Edoardo Migliori, Laurence Buisseret, Alexandre de Wind, Sylvain Brohée, Soizic Garaud, Grégory Noël, Vu Luan Dang Chi, Jean-Nicolas Lodewyckx, Céline Naveaux, Hugues Duvillier, Stanislas Goriely, Denis Larsimont, Karen Willard-Gallo


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