SARS-CoV-2-specific circulating T follicular helper cells correlate with neutralizing antibodies and increase during early convalescence

Academic Article


  • T-cell immunity is likely to play a role in protection against SARS-CoV-2 by helping generate neutralizing antibodies. We longitudinally studied CD4 T-cell responses to the M, N, and S structural proteins of SARS-CoV-2 in 26 convalescent individuals. Within the first two months following symptom onset, a majority of individuals (81%) mounted at least one CD4 T-cell response, and 48% of individuals mounted detectable SARS-CoV-2-specific circulating T follicular helper cells (cTfh, defined as CXCR5+PD1+ CD4 T cells). SARS-CoV-2-specific cTfh responses across all three protein specificities correlated with antibody neutralization with the strongest correlation observed for S protein-specific responses. When examined over time, cTfh responses, particularly to the Mprotein, increased in convalescence, and robust cTfh responses with magnitudes greater than 5% were detected at the second convalescent visit, a median of 38 days post-symptom onset. CD4 T-cell responses declined but persisted at low magnitudes three months and six months after symptom onset. These data deepen our understanding of antigen-specific cTfh responses in SARSCoV- 2 infection, suggesting that in addition to S protein, M and N protein-specific cTfh may also assist in the development of neutralizing antibodies and that cTfh response formation may be delayed in SARS-CoV-2 infection.
  • Published In

  • PLoS Pathogens  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Boppana S; Qin K; Files JK; Russell RM; Stoltz R; Bibollet-Ruche F; Bansal A; Erdmann N; Hahn BH; Goepfert PA
  • Volume

  • 17
  • Issue

  • July