Cytokines are small, secreted, glycoproteins that specifically affect the interactions and communications between cells. Cytokines are produced transiently and locally, acting in a paracrine or autocrine manner, and they are extremely potent, ligating high affinity cell surface receptors to elicit changes in gene expression and protein synthesis in the responding cell. Cytokines produced during the differentiation of T follicular helper (Tfh) cells and B cells within the germinal center (GC) niche play an important role in ensuring that the humoral immune response is robust, whilst retaining flexibility, during the generation of affinity matured antibodies. Cytokines produced by B cells, antigen presenting cells and stromal cells are important for the differentiation of Tfh cells and Tfh cell produced cytokines act both in an autocrine fashion to firm Tfh cell differentiation and in a paracrine fashion to support the differentiation of memory B cells and plasma cells. In this review, we discuss the role of cytokines during the GC reaction with a particular focus on the influence of cytokines on Tfh cells.
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